Notes Acknowledgments The ideas for this book come from the theoretical and practical work I have been doing for the last ten years.
The inn where he arrives is overcrowded, so he must share a bed with the tattooed Polynesian Queequega harpooneer whose father was king of the fictional island of Rokovoko.
Ishmael signs up with the Quaker ship-owners Bildad and Peleg for a voyage on their whaler Pequod. Peleg describes Captain Ahab: They hire Queequeg the following morning. A man named Elijah prophesies a dire fate should Ishmael and Queequeg join Ahab.
While provisions are loaded, shadowy figures board the ship. On a cold Christmas Day, the Pequod leaves the harbor. Ishmael discusses cetology the zoological classification and natural history of the whaleand describes the crew members.
The chief mate is year-old Starbucka Nantucket Quaker with a realist mentality, whose harpooneer is Queequeg; second mate is Stubbfrom Cape Cod, happy-go-lucky and cheerful, whose harpooneer is Tashtegoa proud, pure-blooded Indian from Gay Head, and the third mate is Flaskalso from Martha's Vineyardshort, stout, whose harpooneer is Daggooa tall African, now a resident of Nantucket.
When Ahab finally appears on the quarterdeckhe announces he is out for revenge on the white whale which took one leg from the knee down and left him with a prosthesis fashioned from a whale's jawbone. Ahab will give the first man to sight Moby Dick a doubloona gold coin, which he nails to the mast.
Starbuck objects that he has not come for vengeance but for profit. Ahab's purpose exercises a mysterious spell on Ishmael: One afternoon, as Ishmael and Queequeg are weaving a mat — "its warp seemed necessity, his hand free will, and Queequeg's sword chance" — Tashtego sights a sperm whale.
Five previously unknown men appear on deck and are revealed to be a special crew selected by Ahab. Their leader, Fedallaha Parseeis Ahab's harpooneer. The pursuit is unsuccessful. Moby Dick Southeast of the Cape of Good Hopethe Pequod makes the first of nine sea-encounters, or "gams", with other ships: Ahab hails the Goney Albatross to ask whether they have seen the White Whale, but the trumpet through which her captain tries to speak falls into the sea before he can answer.
Ishmael explains that because of Ahab's absorption with Moby Dick, he sails on without the customary "gam", which defines as a "social meeting of two or more Whale-ships", in which the two captains remain on one ship and the chief mates on the other.
In the second gam off the Cape of Good Hope, with the Town-Ho, a Nantucket whaler, the concealed story of a "judgment of God" is revealed, but only to the crew: The next day, in the Indian OceanStubb kills a sperm whale, and that night Fleece, the Pequod's black cook, prepares him a rare whale steak.
Fleece delivers a sermon to the sharks that fight each other to feast on the whale's carcass, tied to the ship, saying that their nature is to be voracious, but they must overcome it.
The whale is prepared, beheaded, and barrels of oil are tried out. Standing at the head of the whale, Ahab begs it to speak of the depths of the sea. The Pequod next encounters the Jeroboam, which not only lost its chief mate to Moby Dick, but also is now plagued by an epidemic.
The whale carcass still lies in the water. Queequeg mounts it, tied to Ishmael's belt by a monkey-rope as if they were Siamese twins. Stubb and Flask kill a right whale whose head is fastened to a yardarm opposite the sperm whale's head. Ishmael compares the two heads in a philosophical way: Tashtego cuts into the head of the sperm whale and retrieves buckets of oil.
He falls into the head, and the head falls off the yardarm into the sea. Queequeg dives after him and frees his mate with his sword. The Pequod next gams with the Jungfrau from Bremen.
Both ships sight whales simultaneously, with the Pequod winning the contest. The three harpooneers dart their harpoons, and Flask delivers the mortal strike with a lance. The carcass sinks, and Queequeg barely manages to escape.
The Pequod's next gam is with the French whaler Bouton de Rose, whose crew is ignorant of the ambergris in the gut of the diseased whale in their possession.
Stubb talks them out of it, but Ahab orders him away. Days later, an encounter with a harpooned whale prompts Pip, a little black cabin-boy from Alabama, to jump out of his whale boat.
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