NovelGuide: Moby Dick: Chapters 20-22

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Chapter 20, “All Astir”
 
Summary
The Pequod will be gone for three years, and it takes some time to stow all its cargo, but no one sees Captain Ahab. Bildad’s sister, Aunt Charity, brings little presents to the men for their long voyage.
 
 
Chapter 21, “Going Aboard”
 
Summary
Ishmael is uncomfortable at not seeing the captain before sailing. He runs into Elijah again who asks if they are going aboard, and if they saw a group of mysterious men boarding the ship. Ishmael did see shadowy men going on board, but does not see them later. Elijah wishes them a good morning: “Shan’t see ye again . . . unless it’s before the Grand Jury” (21.97).
 
 
Chapter 22, “Merry Christmas”
 
Summary
On board, Ishmael cannot find the mysterious sailors that he saw and that Elijah pointed out, and Ahab is still out of sight. Peleg and Bildad ask the first mate, Starbuck, to call all hands, and the owners pilot the ship out of the harbor on a dreary and cold Christmas Day. They reluctantly leave in a small boat when the ship reaches deep water, giving last minute advice to the men. The Pequod “blindly plunged like fate into the lone Atlantic” (22.104).
 
 
Analysis Chapters 20, 21, and 22
 
Analysis
The shadowy men are Fedallah and his crew, smuggled on board by Ahab. They will be in hiding until later in the voyage. Elijah’s warning and Ahab’s absence again foreshadow the blind fate of the Pequod as it is swallowed by the sea.
 
 

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