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Free Study Guide-Moby Dick by Herman Melville-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapters 115 - 116

Summary

Soon after they leave the merry Bachelor, the Pequod captures four whales in one afternoon. As Ahab watches the whales die, he notices that each one of them turn to face the sun. The Pequod is able to get three of the four captured whales tied to its sides, before it becomes dark. But the last whale is too far out in the sea. So Ahab’s boat decides to keep a watch all night, and at dawn, bring the whale back to the ship. In the boat, everyone seems asleep, except the Parsee, Fedallah. He stays awake, watching the sharks hovering around the dead whale’s body in the dark waters.

Suddenly, Ahab wakes up and tells Fedallah that he has had a dream of a hearse. But Fedellah assures him that neither hearses ‘nor coffin will be his.’ He adds that Ahab will see two hearses before he dies. Besides, only a ‘hemp’ rope can kill Ahab Fedallah prophecies. This make Ahab think of the gallows. And he concludes that he will not die at sea and that he is going to be immortal on land and sea.

Both the men remain silent after this conversation. At dawn, the oarsmen wake up and the dead whale is brought to ship by noon.

Notes

These two chapters deal with death - first, the death of the whale and second, Ahab’s death. In chapter 115, while watching the whales dying, the writer’s language becomes poetic when Ahab says:


"Oh high aspiring, rainbowed jet! - That one strivest, this one jettest all in vain! In vain, oh whale, does thou seek interceding with you all-quickening sun, that only calls forth life, but gives it not again."

Through his comments Ahab reveals that he believes in the supremacy of light symbolizing - good. But he has made the choice of the evil. For he says: "Yet dose thou, darker half, rock me with a prouder, if a darker faith."

Furthermore, in the following chapter, Ahab’s dream and Fedallah’s interpretations remind the reader of the witches’ prophecy from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Like Macbeth, Ahab thinks that he is immortal because of the prophecy, as he cannot understand how it can come true. However, the reader will see later that Fedallah’s prophecy does come true, as Ahab dies due to the ‘hemp’/ rope.

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