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Free Study Guide-Moby Dick by Herman Melville-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapters 28 - 30

Summary

In chapter 28, Capt. Ahab becomes extremely restless about something that Ishmael is unable to figure out. The Captain is seen more often outside his cabin. Sometimes he takes care not to pace on the decks to keep from disturbing the sleeping sailors, just a few inches below the decks, with his whalebone leg. But one might, he is too preoccupied with his own thoughts to think about the sailors. So he begins to walk with "heavy lumber like pace", on the deck. Stubb, the second mate who is in charge, goes up to him and reminds him that the sleeping sailors will be disturbed by the noise of his feet Capt. Ahab explodes, calling him a dog and tells him to go to his cabin and retire for that night. The perplexed and angry Stubb is unable to understand the reason behind the sudden anger displayed by Ahab. But Ahab is uncontrollable that night, and insults Stubb with a few more names, threatening him with dire consequences if he does not go back to his cabin immediately. Taken aback by this violent response, Stubb retreats to his cabin quietly.

After Stubb leaves, Ahab leaves; Ahab sits on his ivory stool for a smoke. But after a few puffs from his pipe, he wonders why he smokes, for it is only a past time for the calm and serene men. Ahab does not enjoy his pipe any more so he throws the still lit pipe into the sea and resumes his walk upon the decks.


The next morning Stubb narrates a strange dream to Flask. In the dream, Ahab kicks Stubb with his ivory leg. When Stubb tries to give him a kick in return, the Captain turns into a pyramid. And just as he is about to kick the pyramid, a voice calls out to him and tells him that it is an honor for Stubb to be kicked by such a great man as Ahab. Stubb tells Flask that it is better to leave the Captain alone for "Ahab has that’s bloody on his mind."

Notes

These three chapters reveal the darker side of Ahab and his inability to communicate with his crew, especially Stubb. Ahab’s state of mind - his restlessness and impatience--is evident from his conflict with Stubb. He has only one thing on his mind and everything else is irrelevant or an irritant. The fact that Ahab can be easily roused to the extent that he becomes nearly incapacitated is a negative aspect. His reaction to Stubb’s humble request gives the reader an idea of the man who is in control of the ship. The further out to sea the Pequod gets, the more Ahab becomes single-minded and only aware of his own obsession: to catch the white whale and kill it.

Stubb’s strange dream in Chapter 29 suggests that he is trying to come to terms with Ahab’s insult by interpreting it less as a direct insult since Ahab used his false leg to hit him and not his real one. Stubb is unable to feel that he must vindicate himself and instead shrugs it off. He does not hold a grudge unlike Ahab whose whole being is focused on a whale who took his leg.

The fact that Ahab throws his pipe away suggests he deliberately wants to deny himself all human pleasures. From now on, his focus is going to be on the goal he wants to pursue.

At the end of chapter 30, Ahab mentions the white whale for the first time and whom many of the sailors have already heard of.

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