Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 66: The Shark Massacre

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 66: The Shark Massacre

  • Ishmael explains why they tied the whale to the ship and left it there overnight: because slaughtering a whale is such an arduous process, when a whale is captured late at night, it’s standard procedure to tie it to the ship overnight and let everyone get a good night’s sleep before they start the butchering process.
  • Sometimes, however, especially near the equator in the Pacific, there are too many sharks for this— they can strip a whale bare in a few hours.
  • In the morning, to get rid of the sharks, Queequeg and another seaman are lowered over the side of the Pequod on platforms, holding their whaling-spades, to kill as many sharks as possible in a vicious bloodbath.
  • They haul one of the sharks in over the side of the ship to get its skin, and, not quite dead, it almost bites Queequeg’s hand off. Queequeg responds with a racial slur.

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