Moby Dick


Chapters 42 - 54

Chapter 42 Summary

Ishmael admits that the thing he finds most terrible about Moby Dick is the whale’s unusual color. He offers a lengthy meditation on why “the whiteness” of the whale is so loathsome. Because white is usually associated with purity and spirituality, it is all the more terrifying when associated with something that is inherently dangerous, such as a polar bear or a shark. Ishmael also suggests that the absence of color is unsettling because it is unnatural. According to Ishmael, nature paints the world with tinges of color. Thus, total whiteness suggests things which cannot be seen or understood—the “heartless voids and immensities of the universe”—forcing the human soul to confront the idea of annihilation.

Chapter 43 Summary

Two sailors are keeping the night watch on the quarterdeck. One sailor thinks he hears the sounds of people in the hold, where no one should be. The other sailor laughs at the idea. The first sailor suddenly remembers that he overheard Stubb and Flask talking one morning about secret passengers on board the ship. No one else has seen them on deck, but the sailor is sure that Captain Ahab knows about it.

Chapter 44 Summary

Ishmael describes how Captain Ahab frequently pores over his sea charts, obsessively trying to track Moby Dick. As futile as it may seem to find a single whale in the vastness of the ocean, Ahab’s efforts are not entirely in vain because he understands the whale’s feeding patterns. Ahab’s constant state of tormented anguish is evident: he wakes in the middle of the night from troubled dreams, and his palms are always bloody from sleeping with clenched fists. Ishmael believes that Ahab’s obsession has taken over his very soul, creating a living creature within the old man that consumes him from the inside.

Chapter 45 Summary

Ishmael admits that his story thus far may seem hard to believe. In this chapter, he gives the...

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Essays About Moby Dick