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Chapters 26 - 30

Chapter XXVI: Knights and Squires

Ishmael describes the "immaculate manliness" of the ship's first mate, Starbuck: "a native of Nantucket and a Quaker by descent" (and the inspiration for the name of the coffee shop!) This righteous, handsome mate stands as a symbol of upright honor, courage, and leadership. After expressing the sheer goodness of Starbuck, Ishmael hints that he will become "valor-fallen" by the end of the novel. Nevertheless, here the first mate remains an inspiration to the narrator, leading him to cry out in the language of prayer that God "selectest champions from the kingly commons," namely the "mariners and renegades and castaways" of the whale ship.

Chapter XXVII: Knights and Squires (again!)

We meet the rest of the crew, who make up a rainbow coalition of whalers. The second mate, Stubb, is a pipe-smoking Cape-Cod man, good tempered and "neither craven or valiant." The third mate, Flask, is a small and hot-tempered Martha's Vineyarder, who hunts whales as if they've given him personal offense. The three mates are matched by three harpooneers, and if the first trio are representatives of different parts of Massachusetts, the latter three represent different "savageries": first, of course, the Polynesian Queequeg, who accompanies Starbuck. Stubb's harpooneer is Tashtego, "an unmixed Indian from Gay Head" in Martha's Vineyard. Finally, the harpooneer who works for little Flask is Daggoo, described as "a gigantic coal-black negro-savage." (Melville is not a tremendously PC writer, in the 21st century sense, but at least all his "savages" are noble). Ishmael ponders the fact that the best whalers seem to be "island men" of some kind or another, and coins a word for them: "isolatoes." This word, etymologically, means simply "men from islands," but it gains greater significance when Ishmael comments that all men are fundamentally isolated, "each ... living on a separate continent of his own." He ends the chapter by referring to one of the ship's eventual casualties, "Black Little Pip," who will apparently never come back from the voyage. We are left wondering who this might be.

Chapter XXVIII: Ahab

At last, after several days at sea the mysterious Captain of the Pequod makes an appearance (over 100 pages into the novel!). By this point, Ishmael has begun to let his imagination run wild, thinking that this Ahab must be a tremendously sinister, mysterious force. When Ahab appears, he is all this and more: as Ishmael comments, "reality outran apprehension." Attempting to describe the Captain, our narrator is forced to resort to highly bizarre formulations: "he looked like a man cut away from the stake, when the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them." Ahab has a white scar, beginning at a white streak in his hair and running all the way down the side of his face, as if he'd been struck by lightning. Most dreadful of all, Ahab has only one leg; the other is a "barbaric" ivory peg made out of a sperm whale's jawbone. The Captain stands silently, his peg fixed into a special hole on the deck, and a "crucifixion in his face," as if he is unbearably sorrowful. But at least he's visible now, and begins to be a regular figure on deck.

Chapter XXIX: Enter Ahab; To him, Stubb

The chapter's title signifies one of Melville's stylistic experiments: it seems like a stage direction, suggesting the influence of tragedy on this large novel. Moreover, the notion of a stage direction prepares us for a weird aspect of the narration: that sometimes Ishmael describes private conversations between people, or even monologues spoken by characters alone - things that he cannot possibly have heard or seen. In this scene, Ahab speaks to Stubb in the dead of night, telling him to return below deck. But he does so in bizarrely hostile language - "Down, dog!" - and Stubb takes offense, muttering to himself as he goes down that Ahab is "the queerest old man that Stubb ever sailed with." Ahab is beginning, it seems, to frighten his mates - but the simple Stubb quickly decides that it's not worth thinking about ("Think not, is my eleventh commandment," he says).

Chapter XXX: The Pipe

Ahab, now alone on deck, has a smoke. But he suddenly "soliloquizes" that the pipe gives him no pleasure. Something, apparently, bothers Ahab so deeply that the idea of smoking - an activity "meant for sereneness" - disgusts him. He throws the pipe overboard, and begins to pace the deck.

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Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapters 1 - 5
Chapters 6 - 10
Chapters 11 - 15
Chapters 16 - 20
Chapters 21 - 25
Chapters 26 - 30
Chapters 31 - 35
Chapters 36 - 40
Chapters 41 - 45
Chapters 46 - 50
Chapters 51 - 55
Chapters 56 - 60
Chapters 61 - 65
Chapters 66 - 70
Chapters 71 - 75
Chapters 76 - 80
Chapters 81 - 85
Chapters 86 - 90
Chapters 91 - 95
Chapters 96 - 100
Chapters 101 - 105
Chapters 106 - 110
Chapters 111 - 115
Chapters 116 - 120
Chapters 121 - 125
Chapters 126 - 130
Chapters 131 - 135


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