Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 49: The Hyena

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 49: The Hyena

  • Ishmael is starting to feel like the entire universe is just one giant practical joke at his expense, and he feels detached and ready to accept the abuse of Fate.
  • As Ishmael’s pulled up on deck of the ship (he’s is the last to be rescued), he asks Queequeg whether this sort of thing—chasing a whale in a storm and almost drowning—is common on whaling voyages. Queequeg agrees stoically that it is.
  • Next, Ishmael asks Stubb if ordering his men to go out under these dangerous conditions is usual for a prudent man like Starbuck, and Stubb says that it is.
  • Finally, Ishmael turns to Flask and asks if most whalemen regularly row themselves backwards into the jaws of death. Flask agrees that it’s pretty typical.
  • After these assurances of what his future on the Pequod is likely to be, Ishmael decides to make a last will and testament, appointing Queequeg as his executor.
  • Ishmael tells us that this is the fourth time in his sea-going life that he’s made a will.
  • It always makes him feel better, almost as though his death has already happened and now he’s living on borrowed time.

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