Moby-Dick: A Quick Overview

Chapters 1 - 13
Ishmael decides to go on a whaling voyage. Travels to New Bedford from Manhattan. There he becomes the friend of Queequeg, the South Sea Islander. They decide to go whaling together on a Nantucket whaleship.

Chapters 14 - 22
On Nantucket Island, they sign on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by the sinister Captain Ahab. A wharfside character called Elijah warns them that their souls are in danger on that ship. The Pequod leaves Nantucket bound "around the world" on Christmas Day.

Chapters 23 - 25
Various observations by Melville. [Skim on first reading.]

Chapters 26 - 35
Introduction to the characters of Ahab, the mates Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, the harpooneers Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego, and the ship's boy Pip. [Note: Chapters 31, 32, 33, and 35: various / skim.]

Chapters 36 - 37
Very important. Captain Ahab nails a gold coin to the mast as a reward, making the crew swear that they will assist him in killing the white whale Moby Dick for revenge. Only Starbuck is against this.

Chapters 38 - 47
See Table of Contents for Chapters to skim on first reading.

Chapters 48 - 50
Introduces Fedallah, the leader of Ahab's boat-crew of Parsees, smuggled on board as stowaways by Ahab.

Chapters 51 - 54
Various observations concerning Moby Dick's supernatural powers.

Chapters 55 - 92
Various observations about whales and whale hunting, including further reference to Moby Dick's ability to wreak death and destruction.

Chapter 93
Little black boy Pip jumps from a whaleboat, is abandoned and rescued, but goes insane as a result.

Chapters 94 - 105
More on whales, whaling, and Moby Dick's doings.

Chapters 106 - 108
Ahab gets a new leg made by the ship's carpenter.

Chapter 109
Confrontation between Ahab and Starbuck, where Ahab threatens to kill Starbuck with a gun.

Chapter 110
Queequeg decides he is dying, has the carpenter make him a coffin; then he decides he won't die after all. His coffin plays an important role in the story after that.

Chapters 111 - 116
The Pequod reaches the Pacific Ocean by way of the Indian Ocean and the China Sea. Ahab has the ship s blacksmith forge him a special harpoon, tempered in blood, for Moby Dick.

Chapter 117
Fedallah makes three predictions concerning Ahab's death.

Chapters 118 - 122
Ahab smashes his quadrant, deciding to navigate by dead reckoning; he faces down a typhoon, gaining the respect of the crew and the revulsion of Starbuck. Ahab leaves the Sea of Japan to head for the Equator where he knows Moby Dick is waiting.

Chapter 123
Starbuck comes close to shooting Ahab in his sleep, but chickens out.

Chapters 124 - 125
Ahab magnetizes a needle as a compass to the amazement of the crew. Then he befriends poor little Pip, showing a tender side to his gruff personality.

Chapters 126 - 127
Eerie wails are heard one night, and the next morning a sailor falls down from the rigging into the sea, and disappears along with the ship s life buoy. Another one is made from Queequeg's coffin, and it is prophetically hung over the stern of the ship

Chapter 128
The Pequod meets the Nantucket whaleship Rachel whose Captain is searching for his son who is lost in a missing whaleboat. Ahab refuses to help in the search, because he is losing time .

Chapters 129 - 132
Chapters preparatory to the assault on Moby Dick. Ill omens occur, and Starbuck makes a final, failed plea to Ahab to stop seeking revenge on Moby Dick and take the ship back to Nantucket.

Chapters 133 - 135
The final three days -- Moby Dick is attacked each day. On the first two, the White Whale smashes the boats and drives them back on to the Pequod. On the third day Moby Dick sinks the Pequod and kills Captain Ahab by catching his neck in the harpoon-line and yanking him under water, fulfilling the three prophecies of Fedallah.

Ishmael survives to tell the tale and spin the yarn. It was the life buoy made of Queequeg's coffin that saved him until he was rescued by the Nantucket whaleship Rachel.

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