Moby Dick: Chapters 61-66

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Chapter 61, “Stubb Kills a Whale”
 
Summary
For Queequeg, the squid is not a bad omen, but a sign of sperm whale nearby. The Pequod is now in the Indian Ocean, and while Ishmael almost falls asleep at the masthead, he spots a sperm whale. The boats are lowered, and Stubb’s boat harpoons the whale. The rope goes out so fast it smokes. Stubb throws dart after dart to finish off the whale. The water turns red with its blood.
 
 
Chapter 62, “The Dart”
 
Summary
Ishmael explains how difficult the feat of killing a whale is, for Stubb had to throw a harpoon twenty or thirty feet, then drop it and row. More than one harpoon is thrown to keep the connection until the lance can finish the job.
 
 
Chapter 63, “The Crotch”
 
Summary
The crotch in the boat holds two harpoons, each with its own rope. If all the boats are engaged, the lines can get tangled, and accidents are likely.
 
 
Chapter 64, “Stubb’s Supper”
 
Summary
The dead whale is towed and secured to the side of the ship. Stubb orders whale steak for his dinner, as is the custom: the victor eats his prey.
 
 
Chapter 65, “The Whale as a Dish”
 
Summary
Ishmael discusses whale as a dish, saying whalemen and Eskimos eat it, but it has too much fat for civilized tastes. The hump is solid fat, but the brains are a tasty dish. Stubb eats whale by its own oil light in the lamp, and if we reflect, we are all cannibals if we look around to see what the things we use are made of and where they come from.
 
Chapter 66, “The Shark Massacre”
 
Summary
Thousands of sharks eat the carcass of the whale, so the crew hold lanterns near the water and kill as many sharks as possible, until the sharks begin to eat each other.
 
 
Analysis Chapters 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, and 66
Ishmael shows us a bloody picture of hunting whales, with details of how it is done. The men themselves seem to become part animal, eating their prey, like sharks. The old black cook, Fleece, provides a humorous lecture to the sharks, as they rip at the whale carcass. He says he doesn’t blame them for being voracious; that is their wicked nature, “but if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel; for all angel is not’ing more den de shark well goberned” (64. 293).
 
This view counters an earlier romantic view of life entertained by Ishmael before he set sail—that life was basically benign, even if surrounded by evil forces. Fleece’s philosophy is that in a brutal world, goodness is a superhuman act, for humans are more or less sharkish themselves.
 
 

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