Etymology & Extracts

Readers are given the etymological derivation of the word “whale,” followed by quotations from various sources in which whales are mentioned.

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Chapters 1–9

Ishmael explains his desire to be at sea. He travels to New Bedford, where he shares a room with a harpooner named Queequeg. Next morning, Ishmael wanders around the town, eventually finding the Whaleman’s Chapel. The preacher gives a sermon on the story of Jonah and the whale.

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Chapters 10–21

Ishmael and Queequeg grow close. Queequeg says he is unfit to go back to his native island due to his exposure to Christianity. The two board a ship captained by Ahab, who lost his leg after an encounter with the great white whale Moby Dick.

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Chapters 22–31

Starbuck, the first mate, is introduced, along with the rest of the crew of the Pequod: the second mate, Stubb, the third mate, Flask, and their harpooners, Tashtego and Daggoo. Pip beats a tambourine. Ahab appears and Ishmael observes his distressed state and stern control over the ship. Ahab calls on the crew to look out for whales.

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Chapters 32–40

Ahab rouses the men by affirming their goal in killing Moby Dick. Alone, Ahab gives a soliloquy about how everyone views him as mad and how it was destined that he would be dismembered by a whale.

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Chapters 41–47

Ahab attempts to locate Moby Dick with almost supernatural ability. Ishmael considers how Ahab will exact his revenge and the possibility that Ahab’s obsessive behavior might lead to him getting usurped by the crew. Tashtego sights a whale and the crew rushes into preparation.

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Chapters 48–54

Ahab’s secret crew, led by Fedallah, emerges from where they’ve been hiding. As the crew attempts to harpoon the whales, they are nearly crushed and then pulled aboard. Ishmael decides to rewrite his will with Queequeg’s help.

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Chapters 55–65

Daggoo mistakes a giant squid for Moby Dick. Queequeg views the squid as a good omen, and Ishmael gives an account of the harpooning of a whale.

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Chapters 66–73

The crew is forced to deal with the sharks that try to devour the whale carcass they have captured, before engaging in the gory business of cutting into the whale. Another whaling ship approaches the Pequod, and the crew learns of a prophet who warns against hunting Moby Dick.

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Chapters 74–81

Tashtego falls into the suspended whale’s head, and Queequeg saves him. The Pequod and another ship both give chase when whales are sighted, the Pequod catching a whale that is covered in growths.

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Chapters 82–92

Ishmael likens the history of whaling to numerous mythological figures and stories, in particular examining the Jonah story. The Pequod encounters whales and gives chase but then finds themselves pursued by pirates, which they eventually escape. They only succeed in capturing one whale. Stubb tricks another ship into giving them their whales.

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Chapters 93–101

The crew has different reactions to the golden coin fixed on the mainmast, each interpreting it in a different way. The Pequod meets another whaling ship, and Ahab and the ship’s captain share stories of their respective mutilated limbs as a result of their encounters with Moby Dick.

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Chapters 102–114

Ahab asks the carpenter to make him a new leg. Queequeg falls ill and, thinking that he is going to die, makes a coffin before eventually feeling better. Ishmael describes the sea in all its dreaminess and ferocity. Ahab asks the blacksmith to make him a special harpoon with which to kill the white whale.

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Chapters 115–125

Ahab hears from Fedallah the prophecy of his death. Ahab orders the ship to change direction. Next day, the Pequod is caught in a typhoon, which results in fire that Starbuck interprets as a portend to their quest for Moby Dick. Ahab blows out the flames and any fear that his crew may have in their voyage. After the storm, Starbuck goes to report to Ahab, but having thoughts of potentially killing him, stops himself. When a line breaks and Pip helps Ahab, Ahab says that his cabin will now be Pip’s.

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Chapters 126–132

The morning after the sailors pass a seal colony, which many of the men are superstitious about, one of the sailors falls from a masthead and drowns when the life buoy fails to work. Later, they learn from another ship that they have spotted Moby Dick. Ahab spends much of his time searching and walking the decks, shadowed everywhere by Fedallah.

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Chapters 133–135 & Epilogue

Ahab finally spots Moby Dick and the boats set off in chase of the whale, but the whale destroys Ahab’s boat and threatens the men until they are rescued by the Pequod. The crew catches sight of Moby Dick again, but the whale is triumphant, nearly killing Ahab. Ahab learns that Fedallah has drowned. A final fierce confrontation between Ahab, the Pequod, and Moby Dick takes place resulting in the Pequod being sunk by a vortex that pulls the remaining boats and the crew down with it. Ishmael is the only survivor because Queequeg’s coffin became his life buoy.

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