Chapter 121: Midnight—the Forecastle Bulwarks

Stubb and Flask have their own conversation about the storm and Ahab’s behavior. Stubb dominates the conversation and insists that this journey is no more dangerous than any other, even though it seems as if Ahab is putting them in extreme danger.

Chapter 122: Midnight Aloft—Thunder and Lightning

Suspended above the men on the main-top-sail yard, Tashtego thinks to himself that sailors care more about rum than about the storm.

Chapter 123: The Musket

When the storm finally dies down, Starbuck goes below to report to Ahab. On the way to the cabin, he sees a row of muskets, including the very one that Ahab had leveled at him earlier. Angry about Ahab’s reckless and selfish behavior, he debates with himself about whether he ought to kill his captain. He decides that he cannot kill Ahab in his sleep and returns to the deck, asking Stubb to wake Ahab.

Chapter 124: The Needle

When Ahab is on deck the next day, he realizes that the storm has thrown off the compasses. He then pronounces himself “lord over the level loadstone yet” and makes his own needle. Here Ishmael notes that “[i]n this fiery eye of scorn and triumph, you then saw Ahab in all his fatal pride.”

Chapter 125: The Log and Line

With all of the other orienting devices out of order, Ahab decides to pull out the seldom-used log and line, a device used to measure a ship’s speed. Because of heat and moisture, the line breaks, and Ahab realizes that he now has none of his original navigational devices. He calls for Pip to help him, but Pip answers with nonsense. Ahab, touched by Pip’s crazy speeches, says that his cabin will now be Pip’s, because the boy touches his “inmost center.”

Analysis: Chapters 115–125

Ishmael fades in and out of his own narration in these chapters, as Ahab’s determination and control over the ship increase. Many of these chapters, in fact, are made up entirely of soliloquies and asides, for which it seems unlikely that Ishmael would have been an audience. The events that occur in these chapters also reflect Ahab’s increasing power over the ship. First Ahab throws away the quadrant. He then refuses to put up the lightning rods, makes his own compass, and breaks the log and line. These devices are the only things that keep the Pequod on an objective, standard course. The loss of the ship’s compass is probably most significant—its replacement with one of Ahab’s own manufacture suggests that the Pequod’s path will now be dictated not by logic, skill, or convention but solely by Ahab’s will.