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\Studyworld\ Studyworld Studynotes \ Moby Dick:
Chapters 106 - 110

Chapter CVI: Ahab's Leg

As Ahab hurries away from the Samuel Enderby to resume his quest for Moby Dick, he accidentally cracks his ivory leg; soon after, the leg splinters, and "all but pierced his groin" (hinting, of course, at castration). Ahab does not realize that this new injury is a direct consequence of his earlier one, and that miseries tend to produce more miseries. Instead, he maintains his obsessive course, and calls the carpenter and blacksmith to fashion a new leg out of Sperm Whale bone. The leg, in other words, becomes even more of a visible symbol of Ahab's mad quest.

Chapter CVII: The Carpenter

Ishmael introduces the humble carpenter "onstage." His usual duties - repairing boats, sharpening harpoons, replacing planks, even pulling teeth - are all much less dramatic than the making of a leg for a crazy captain. It would be, however, a mistake to think of the carpenter as a mere silent craftsman. Within his generally practical demeanor, Ishmael tells us, dwells an "unaccountable, cunning life-principle," which leads him to speculate and to "soliloquize" aloud as he sets to his tasks.

Chapter CVIII: Ahab and the Carpenter

This chapter is full of stage directions, first describing the carpenter in front of his bench working by lantern-light and the blacksmith busy by the fire. The carpenter is speaking to himself as he files away at the bone leg, sneezing from the dust that rises. Ahab enters and tries on the leg as he talks to the carpenter; in another formal experiment, this scene is presented as pure dialogue (Ishmael's narrative voice disappears).

Ahab, of course, says some disturbing things. After describing his continuing sensation of a live limb where his leg used to be, he suggests to the carpenter that there may exist entire men who are invisible in the same way that his leg is, and that in hell people are invisible, and yet feel pain. Ahab, speaking to himself as he leaves, curses the fact that he, "proud as a Greek god," must rely on the work of such a common man in order to "stand." The carpenter, meanwhile, concludes that Stubb was right about Ahab: he is "queer - queer - queer."

Chapter CIX: Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin

As the Pequod nears Japan, the men discover that some of the oil casks are leaking their precious contents. Starbuck goes to tell Ahab the bad news, and to suggest that the ship stop sailing until they deal with the leaks. Ahab, of course, does not care either about the oil or about the ship's owners who will lose their profits without it; he cares only about his pursuit of the Whale. He refuses to stop, and orders Starbuck to leave him. Starbuck is outraged, and won't return to deck, even as Ahab threatens him with a musket and declares "there is one God that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that is lord over the Pequod." Hearing this blasphemy, Starbuck departs in horror, declaring that Ahab should not fear Starbuck, but "let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man." Ahab silently admits that Starbuck has a point, and announces that the ship will stop. It is an uncharacteristically decent move on Ahab's part.

Chapter CX: Queequeg in his Coffin

The men search for the leaky caskets of oil, which takes some time. Meanwhile, the noble Queequeg comes down with a life-threatening fever. He lies in his hammock, refusing to eat, and getting closer and closer to death as the days go by. Finally, he asks Ishmael to seek out a wooden canoe, like the ones that Nantucket whale men are placed in when they die, so that his body can be floated out to sea. The carpenter is summoned, and measures Queequeg for his coffin-canoe. When the object is finally made, Queequeg asks to be lifted into it so that he can make sure of the fit. As he lies in the coffin, the mad cabin boy Pip comes to speak, incoherently, to him; as Starbuck recognizes, the holy fool's language is something like a message from the divine to the dying man. Pip leaves, and Queequeg is replaced in the hammock, and almost immediately the sickness disappears. Queequeg explains that he "decided" not to die yet, and is entirely better by the end of the day. The coffin now becomes Queequeg's sea-chest, which he carves with the same elaborate patterns tattooed on his body.

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Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapters 1 - 5
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