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Free Study Guide-Moby Dick by Herman Melville-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapters 50 - 51

Summary

Several days pass without sighting a whale. Then, one night, when Fedallah is on the watch, he spots a ‘silvery jet’ far ahead in the dark waters. Fedallah warns everyone on the ship and the ship speeds ahead with all her sails spread out. But the silvery ‘spout’ disappears suddenly. It reappears again at intervals before vanishing again.

The ship is now beginning to sail around the Cape of Good Hope. Here, the Pequod faces terrible storms. Throughout this stormy journey, Ahab stands erect and grim, staring straight through the howling winds and heavy rain. On the southeast of the Cape, the Pequod meets the ship ‘Albatross’ as it is returning home after a long period. Ishmael says that normally when two ships meet on the sea especially American whaling ships, there is a friendly exchange of news and mail and the crewmembers of the other ship are invited on board for a chat. But Captain Ahab does not bother with these niceties. Instead, as the Albatross passes his ship, he calls out to the captain and asks, ‘Ship Ahoy! Have you seen the white whale?'


But as the captain of the other ship raises his trumpet to answer him, the trumpet falls from his hands into the waters. Afterward, all attempts to call back without the trumpet through the roaring winds go in vain. Meanwhile, the distance between the two ships increase, without any news or greetings exchanged.

Notes

The chapter where Fedellah spots a ‘silvery jet’ again suggests that there are some things in life which cannot be explained.

The fact that the captain of Pequod does not encourage any form of social greetings or meeting with other ships reveals his asocial nature. There will be many meetings with other ships in the novel and each one has a particular aspect worth noting. In this first one, the meeting fails because the trumpet falls in the water. Subsequently, others will also fail in exchanging news and socializing. The only thing that interests Ahab is Moby Dick and his conversation with other ships will be limited to the white whale.

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