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Barron's Booknotes-Moby Dick by Herman Melville
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CHAPTER 132: THE SYMPHONY

The next day dawns with sky so blue that it can hardly be distinguished from the ocean; the sun is like a bright bride to the ocean's groom. Even Ahab is moved enough by this beauty to shed a tear for it. Starbuck, sensing the captain's mood, goes to talk with Ahab.

Ahab reminisces about his solitary years of whaling and about his wife and child whom he has hardly seen. Out of a genuine concern to keep Starbuck safe, he tells the first mate to remain on the Pequod when Ahab lowers for Moby-Dick.

Starbuck, moved by the captain's humanity, begs him to give up the chase so they can return to their families in Nantucket. Even as he describes the joys of a wife and a child, however, Ahab's bitterness is regaining its power. Something within Ahab is forcing him to continue his quest. What is it? God or Ahab himself? Fate or the Devil? Starbuck, discouraged, leaves, and Ahab abandons the sanity Starbuck represents by going over to talk with a symbol of his madness, Fedallah.

CHAPTER 133: THE CHASE-FIRST DAY

That night Ahab senses a sperm whale is near, and the next morning he orders the three harpooners to the mastheads. When they see nothing, he climbs to his own perch. There, at last he spies "a hump like a snow hill." It is Moby-Dick.

The boats are lowered, Starbuck remaining as promised on the Pequod. As the whaleboats approach the great beast he seems gentle and unsuspecting, lovely, and mighty as Jove. But when he sounds-disappears into the water-his gaping, terrifying mouth becomes visible.

Moby-Dick resurfaces almost directly under Ahab's boat, all cruel teeth and malicious intelligence. The whaleboat shatters as the whale bites through it, his jaw reaching within six inches of Ahab's head. Ahab, in a combination of madness and bravery, fights with his bare hands to save the boat, but falls from the shattered craft into the ocean. Moby-Dick swims furiously around the wreckage, seemingly readying himself for a final attack, but the Pequod drives him away.

Yet Ahab is undaunted; as soon as he's taken on board ship, he orders it to continue the chase until nightfall.



CHAPTER 134: THE CHASE-SECOND DAY

By the second day of the quest, all the crew share some of Ahab's determination to kill the whale, their fears swept aside by their awe of Ahab. Moby-Dick breaches-leaps almost perpendicular into the air. This time the battle begins at once. Stubb's, Flask's, and Ahab's boats are soon dangerously tangled in harpoon lines, with loose harpoons and lances flying around the crews' heads. Stubb's and Flask's boats smash against each other, and Moby-Dick dashes his forehead against Ahab's boat, knocking it sideways and shattering Ahab's ivory leg. Then the whale vanishes.

The Pequod rescues the men from the shattered boats. As they gather on deck Stubb notices that one man is not with them: Fedallah. Stubb thought he saw the Parsee caught in the tangle of line and dragged under the water.

Starbuck insists to Ahab that to continue the chase is madness, but, though Ahab feels sympathy for the first mate, he refuses to stop. He has no choice, he says; from the beginning of time this was his fate. He still expects victory tomorrow, though Fedallah's disappearance is ominous: the Parsee's death was one of the preconditions for Ahab's own.

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Barron's Booknotes-Moby Dick by Herman Melville
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