Moby Dick: Chapters 29-31

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Chapter 29, “Enter Ahab: To Him, Stubb”
 
Summary
Ahab spends more and more time on deck and can even be heard at night by the men below as he stumps around above them, so they cannot sleep. Stubb, the good-natured second mate, asks Ahab if he could muffle the sound of his pegleg, so the men can sleep. Ahab dismisses him like a dog. Stubb takes offense, but Ahab insults him again and lunges at him, scaring Stubb. He thinks Ahab’s behavior is mad, and he doesn’t know whether to go back and kick him or pray for him. Stubb’s 11th and 12th commandments are: “think not; sleep when you can.” Yet suddenly Stubb is provoked into thinking about Ahab and the universe.
 
 
Chapter 30, “The Pipe”
 
Summary
Ahab lights his pipe and begins one of his many soliloquies, repudiating the pipe as too domestic and serene for his purposes, so he throws it overboard.
 
 
Chapter 31, “Queen Mab”
 
Summary
The next day, Stubb tells Flask about his dream of Ahab. In it, Ahab kicked him with his ivory leg, and when Stubb tried to kick him back, Ahab turned into a great pyramid, and Stubb’s kicking had no effect. A merman appeared who told him to stop kicking, for “you were kicked by a great man” (31.127). Stubb concludes he must stay out of Ahab’s way.
 
Ahab spots whales and tells the men to be on the look out for a white whale.
 
 
Analysis Chapters 29, 30, and 31
 
The stage directions, “Enter Ahab: To Him, Stubb” and Ahab’s soliloquy remind us that Ahab is being cast as a tragic character, in the Shakespearean tradition, and that the book in several places breaks into dramatic scenes.
 
Ahab’s behavior is perceived as mad by Stubb, but so much power does Ahab wield that he will be able to bully or win over the crew. This is proved by Stubb’s dream that he should allow Ahab to kick him because he is a great man. Ahab’s madness is infectious, as we see Stubb’s happy go lucky character beginning to change; he vows not to get in Ahab’s way.
 
Stubb is not given to reflection, but he is driven to think in order to deal with Ahab. Queen Mab, according to English folklore, and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is the fairy who brings the illusory dreams of fulfillment at night. Stubb dreams he is getting his wish of kicking Ahab, but even Queen Mab cannot maintain the illusion, for the merman warns Stubb he is out of his league, kicking someone as great and mysterious as a sphinx (pyramid). This is the first of the mounting incidents displaying Ahab’s gigantic will.
 
We see Ahab throw his pipe overboard as too tame for his purpose. One by one, he will throw overboard the remnants of his human life.
 
 

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