Jiffynotes index page

\\ home \ Moby Dick:
Chapters 56 - 60

Chapter LVI: Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes

Despite the ending of the prior chapter, here Ishmael continues to offer examples of engravings and paintings that give a good sense of the whale's appearance and proportions.

Chapter LVII: Of Whales in Paint; In Teeth; In Wood; In Sheet-Iron; In Stone; In Mountains; In Stars

This chapter's rather peculiar title refers to Ishmael's effort to find representations any and all other representations of whales, both artistic and natural - from whale door-knockers to whale-shaped clouds. Apparently, even though a whale is impossible to "paint," sailors like Ishmael nevertheless "see" whales everywhere.

Chapter LVIII: Brit

"Brit" is another word for the small yellow floating algae that makes up the Right Whale's diet. Covering the surface of the sea, it gives the impression that a ship is floating through fields of wheat. Ishmael thinks of the contrast between sea and land, and comes to a famous conclusion: "as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life." Again, the sea-voyage becomes a metaphor for some aspect of all spiritual and psychological life.

Chapter LIX: Squid

The Pequod continues her course, en route to Java, still chasing the phantom spout. Daggoo, on watch, sees some white shape surfacing in the distance - and cries out "The White Whale!" All four boats lower to chase the far-off shape, and when they catch up to it they realize that they have been chasing a huge squid - the subject of much superstition among whalers, who believe that no ship that encounters the sea squid will return home safely.

Chapter LX: The Line

Ishmael describes the "sometimes magical, sometimes horrible" whale line: the long rope attached to the harpoons that are thrown at the whale. Though it is only two-thirds of an inch thick, this whale-line is incredibly strong, since it must hold fast and pull the boat after the whale, and then, finally, pull the dead whale up onto the ship for processing. Ishmael describes the coiling and looping of the rope in great detail, and then briefly comments on the potential horror of being dragged to sea by a rope attached to a free-swimming whale - a not uncommon fate for whalemen. As usual, he ends the chapter with some philosophical thoughts: "all men live enveloped in whale lines," which can pull us out to our unpredicted deaths at any moment.

Browse all book notes

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


Copyright © 1999 - Jiffynotes.com. All Rights Reserved.
To cite information from this page, please cite the date when you
looked at our site and the author as Jiffynotes.com.
Privacy Statement