Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 72: The Monkey-rope

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 72: The Monkey-rope

  • Ishmael skips backward again to tell us more about the details of the slaughter of the whale Stubb killed.
  • He explains that it was Queequeg who attached the hook to the whale, and that, dressed only in a butcher’s apron and coarse socks, he had to stay on the surface of the half-submerged whale carcass to accomplish his task.
  • During this process, Ishmael, as Queequeg’s bowsman, holds Queequeg’s harness, which is called a monkey-rope. This rope is tied to both their belts, so if Queequeg falls into the sea and drowns, Ishmael will be pulled in after him. They are "wedded" (72.3) for the moment.
  • As Ishmael thinks about this literal connection to another man, he drifts off into daydream about the complicated web of interconnections that link all men to one another.
  • When Queequeg falls into the gap between the whale and the ship or gets to close to a ravenous shark, Ishmael jerks him to safety. Meanwhile, Tashtego and Daggoo stand on a platform just above Queequeg, stabbing at the sharks with their whale-spades.
  • When Queequeg is hoisted back on board, freezing and exhausted, Dough-Boy (the steward) brings him a cup of ginger-water.
  • Starbuck and Stubb object to this and insist that Queequeg should have something stronger.
  • Apparently the ginger-water was one of Aunt Charity’s ideas, and the men now throw the drink overboard.

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