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Chapters 31 - 35

Chapter XXXI: Queen Mab

The next morning Stubb describes a bizarre dream to the incredulous Flask. (The title of this chapter alludes to the fairy queen of dreams described by Mercutio in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet). In the dream, Ahab kicks Stubb with the ivory leg, and when Stubb kicks back Ahab is miraculously transformed into a pyramid. As Stubb kicks the pyramid, he is accosted by a merman who tells him that he should feel honored to have been kicked by such a majestic false leg. Stubb interprets the dream as further proof that he should ignore Ahab's mistreatment, but nevertheless worries that Ahab has something "bloody on his mind."

Chapter XXXII: Cetology

Another "informative" chapter, which describes the characteristics of different types of whale using a wide variety of literary and scientific sources, and many footnotes. (The word "cetology" means the "study of whales.") Ishmael comments upon the difficulty of classifying the nearly endless subspecies of whale, comparing the task to that of a "letter sorter in the Post Office." Still, he makes an attempt, and organizes his categories of whales into "books" of various sizes containing numerous "chapters" - another meta-fictional moment, in which whaling becomes in some sense analogous to the project of writing fiction.

Chapter XXXIII: The Specksynder

Ishmael describes the office of the "Specksynder," or Chief Harpooneer. The title literally means "fat-cutter" - an aspect of the harpooneer's job that will be described in more detail later. For now, Ishmael is content to ponder the fact that originally the Captain of a whaling ship divided power with the Specksynder. On the Pequod, however, Ahab reigns supreme, demanding from his sailors "instantaneous obedience."

Chapter XXXIV: The Cabin-Table

This chapter begins with a strange use of the present tense: "It is noon," Ishmael writes. Lunch is announced to Ahab and the three mates (Ahab is interrupted in the act of reckoning the ship's latitude using his ivory leg as a chalkboard!). They eat together, and Ahab presides over the cabin table like a cruel father over his children - even deciding what pieces of meat Starbuck, Flask and Stubb are allowed to have. The mates are silent, fearing their captain; again, we are reminded of Ahab's arrogant and total control, even perhaps over the souls of his sailors. After they have finished, the cabin table is cleared and reset for the boisterous barbarian harpooneers, who offer quite a contrast to the silent dread of Ahab's earlier lunch.

Chapter XXXV: The Mast Head

Ishmael takes his first-ever turn watching from the high mast-head. Instead of simply narrating this event, however, he digresses into the history of mast-watching and ship design. But he does offer some self-description, admitting that he did a terrible job of keeping watch, preferring to ponder "the problem of the universe" rather than keeping an eye out for whales.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Prefaces
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
Epilogue



 






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