Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 73: Stubb and Flask kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk over Him

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 73: Stubb and Flask kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk over Him

  • Ishmael reminds us that the sperm whale’s head is still hanging on the side of the ship.
  • The Pequod has drifted into an area filled with brit, the right whale’s favorite food, and the captain decides, on the spur of the moment, to hunt a right whale.
  • Soon, the crew spots spouts, and Stubb and Flask take boats out to hunt.
  • They get their harpoons into a whale, which tries to slam their boats into the side of the ship, but they manage to avoid crashing and succeed in slaughtering the animal. Sharks circle around drinking blood from the water.
  • While they tie cords around the whale to tow it back to the Pequod, Stubb and Flask are able to have a semi-private chat.
  • Stubb wonders why Ahab wants a right whale.
  • Flask answers that he heard Fedallah claim that a ship with a sperm whale’s head on the starboard side and a right whale’s head on the larboard (port) side is supposed to be impossible to sink.
  • Stubb and Flask agree that Fedallah is strange and creepy; Stubb suggests that Fedallah is actually the devil in disguise, come to tempt Ahab to give up something in return for successfully killing Moby Dick.
  • It becomes obvious that Stubb is teasing Flask a little; Stubb’s a bit more educated than Flask, and his story about Fedallah being the devil gets slowly more ridiculous.
  • Flask’s not stupid, though: if Fedallah is the ancient, immortal devil, why has Stubb said that he wants to throw him overboard? Stubb claims it would just be good for the ducking.
  • If Fedallah tries to kidnap or entrap captain Ahab, Stubb says, he plans to shake him by the nape of his neck and pull off his tail.
  • Flask wants to know what he’d do with the tail, and Stubb says he’d sell it for an ox-whip.
  • Flask’s pretty sure now that Stubb is just mocking him.
  • Once they get the right whale back to the Pequod, Ahab arranges for its head to be hung on the other side of the ship, just as Flask predicted.
  • Ahab and Fedallah stand together on deck examining the right whale’s head. Disturbingly, Fedallah is entirely in Ahab’s shadow and appears to have no shadow of his own.

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