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Chapters 36 - 40

Chapter XXXVI: The Quarter-Deck

This crucial chapter begins with another stage direction: "Enter Ahab: Then, All." In this episode, Ahab paces the deck, and suddenly calls all the sailors of the Pequod to assemble on the quarter deck. The Captain demonstrates his intensity and seriousness, demanding that the sailors answer his questions in unison ("What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?" "Sing out for him!" etc.) Ahab grows increasingly excited, and finally holds up an ounce of Spanish gold. He nails the piece of gold to the mast, and announces that it will go as a prize to the first sailor who sees "a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw." Ahab even gives this mysterious whale a name - "Moby Dick!" -- and tells the assembled crew the reason for the challenge: it was this white whale that chewed off his leg.

Getting even more agitated, Ahab announces that "I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up." He further announces, "this is what ye have shipped for, men" - much to the men's surprise. Starbuck, the symbol of good who contrasts with Ahab's darkness, refuses to go along with the Captain's obsession, pointing out that they shipped to hunt all whales, not one in particular. "To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous," he cautions. Ahab, however, will have none of Starbuck's objections. Instead, he utters a famous and rapturous speech revealing the power of his obsession: it isn't just that Moby Dick chewed off his leg. Rather, it is that Moby Dick represents, for Ahab, "an inscrutable thing" that feeds his madness. "God help us all!" whispers Starbuck, now aware that he is in the presence of evil. Meanwhile, Ahab fills the glasses of all the sailors, and the spear-ends of the harpooneers, and has them drink and swear a solemn vow to hunt the white whale to his death - a terrifying scene that seems to resemble some kind of black mass.

Chapter XXXVII: Sunset

Ahab, "sitting alone," utters a soliloquy that further demonstrates his insanity - even declaring, "I'm demoniac, I'm madness maddened!" He vows that he will "dismember his dismemberer," and will not be "swerved."

Chapter XXXVIII: Dusk

Another soliloquy, this one by Starbuck, who thinks further about his captain's black heart. He considers leading a mutiny against Ahab's evil mission, but realizes that the rest of the sailors are drunk and desirous of gold, and will never go along with it. "Oh life!" he cries, "'tis now that I do feel the latent horror in thee!" Starbuck realizes that all he can do is pray to the "blessed influences" to protect them.

Chapter XXXIX: First Night-Watch

Stubb's soliloquy is hardly as soulful as Starbuck's. He notes, "I feel funny," but rather than dwelling on the evil of the night's events, Stubb simply says "Ha! ha!", declares that "a laugh's the wisest, easiest answer to all that's queer," and sings part of a meaningless song - anything that can keep him from thinking about Ahab's mania.

Chapter XL: Midnight, Forecastle

This chapter is a daring and brilliant act of ventriloquism, as the narrative is taken over, a few lines at a time, by each of the ship's sailors: "2nd Nantucket Sailor," "Long-Island Sailor," "Tahitian Sailor" and so on. This experimental form gives the chapter the feeling of a play rather than a novel - indeed, the chapter opens with a stage-direction that indicates something of a dramatic show: "Foresail rises and discovers the watch standing, leaning, and lying in various attitudes." However, the dialogue is not as coherent as drama; instead, it seems to present a swirl of voices that multiply the novel's perspective.

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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
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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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