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Chapters 41 - 45

Chapter XLI: Moby Dick

Ishmael returns to the helm of the narrative, noting that he had been among that chorus of sailors. While he acknowledges that his soul was filled with dread that night, he also recalls having a "wild mystical sympathetical feeling" for Ahab in his quest for the white whale. He offers a brief history of other sightings of Moby Dick, and the rumors of ferocity and danger known by sailors all over the world. He notes that scientists and naturalists have confirmed the existence of a white whale, but adds that many man believe that Moby Dick is an immortal "prodigy" or supernatural creature, able to be seen simultaneously in different oceans. Even the whale's physical appearance alone is able to "strike the imagination with unwonted power." Ahab, Ishmael speculates, used Moby Dick to give physical expression to unspeakable power: "all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them ... that intangible malignity" that fills all men with dread. The white whale, in other words, has become for Ahab a way to understand the very mystery of evil itself.

Chapter XLII: The Whiteness of the Whale

Ishmael goes on to describe what the white whale signified to him. He wishes to explain why Moby Dick's whiteness, above all else, is what "appalled him," and filled him with "blank, nameless horror." After all, as he points out, whiteness is often beautiful. In the case of the whale, however, whiteness becomes a symbol of terrible mystery, silence, that which cannot be understood, "the heartless voids and immensities of the universe" that call forth ideas of annihilation. It seems that Ishmael cannot stand even the blank whiteness of the page: he fills this chapter with example upon example, and with huge unnecessary footnotes, as if he believes that such descriptions can do away with the mystery he fears in Moby Dick.

Chapter XLIII: Hark!

After two highly philosophical chapters, we return to the action of the story. During the middle watch, two sailors hear a cough from a part of the hold that is supposed to be empty. Suspicion ensues.

Chapter XLIV: The Chart

Ahab sits in his cabin, studying maps of the sea and old log-books, containing information about where sperm whales have been seen and where their migrations usually take them. (Ishmael digresses to discuss the methods captains use to track whales.) Ahab then traces lines on one of his charts ... but in a way that suggests that he is mapping out the whereabouts of one whale in particular. In fact, the entire voyage appears to have been planned to coincide with Moby Dick's noted appearances. Ahab's demeanor, meanwhile, grows increasingly strange; he seems animated only by one thing: to travel the oceans of the world endlessly in search of the white whale.

Chapter XLV: The Affidavit

Can Ahab really expect to find one particular whale in all the vast miles of ocean in the world? Ishmael offers some equally unbelievable "true stories" - a kind of Ripley's Believe It or Not moment in the novel. For instance, he knows of "three instances" in which the same whale has been hit twice, on two separate occasions, by the same harpooneer. Moreover, there have been cases when a particular whale becomes instantly "recognizable" to sailors of various oceans - a kind of whale celebrity! Some of these celebrities have even been systematically hunted and killed by captains. Once more, Ishmael makes his point with reference to any number of historical, biblical and mythical texts.

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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