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Free Study Guide-Moby Dick by Herman Melville-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 27

Summary

Several weeks after the Pequod leaves the cold gray and misty harbor of Nantucket, she moves southward, where it is comparatively warmer. One afternoon when Ishmael comes in to take his turn at the watch, he sees Ahab standing straight, facing the wind, on the opposite end of the ship. Ishmael studies the man carefully, noting that his face and personality strike Ishmael the most. What is more striking is a white scar that travels down his forehead, on the side of his face and so on until it disappears into his clothes. The white scar stands out against his tanned face.

As the days become warmer Ahab is seen out of doors more often, standing on his stark white peg leg, fixed in a hole on the deck. Sometimes, he could be seen sitting on a stool on a calm night or just walking about on his deck.


His face reveals great determination and willfulness.

Notes

In this chapter, Ahab makes a physical appearance for the first time. Up until now, the reader has only heard about him and so his late appearance suggests that he will be a striking figure as well as someone who is not wholly involved with the rest of the crew. By keeping a distance from the crew members, he is in a better position to control them.

Like the whale, Ahab is described in terms of ‘whiteness.’ He has a white scar that runs the length of his body from being hit by lightning and his peg leg is made of the best whale bone. He is almost described in an inhuman way, part man and part animal. He relies on the whale not only for his livelihood but also for his ability to move around. Here whiteness is not associated with purity and light as it is often interpreted traditionally. Instead his scar as well as his leg invoke a kind of malice and abnormality. It is as if his inner soul is externalized in the scar that traverses his body.

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