Moby Dick


Chapters 55 - 80

Chapter 55 Summary

In this chapter, Ishmael discusses the difficulty of attempting to capture whales in pictures. Because the animal is so massive, it is hardly ever seen alive without some part of its body being submerged in the water. According to Ishmael, whalers who have seen “the Leviathan” close up are forced to scoff at many of the wrongful depictions offered by the various literary, religious, and even scientific sources. Ishmael points out that a whale can only be seen in its entirety once it is dead, and he compares a dead whale to a wrecked ship.

Chapter 56 Summary

The two best pictorial depictions Ishmael has encountered of whales are by French people. They are engravings taken from paintings by an artist named Garnery. Ishmael describes them in detail, then wonders why French artists should do such a good job, since they are not whalers. French depictions seem to capture more of the spirit of the animal, whereas American and English depictions are more mechanical.

Chapter 57 Summary

Ishmael continues his discussion of the attempts to depict whales visually, now focusing on the attempts whalers themselves have made using wood, ivory, metal, and stone. He points out that whales can even be seen in the constellations, if the observer is keen enough about whales to find them there.

Chapter 58 Summary

As the Pequod sails north, it encounters large deposits of brit, which is a yellow substance upon which right whales are known to feed. They pass groups of right whales, but the animals are safe since the Pequod is specifically a vessel for hunting the sperm whale. Ishmael meditates on the nature of fear and danger, and how the concepts vary from land to sea.

Chapter 59 Summary

The Pequod continues in a northeastern direction towards Java. The waters are serene. One cloudless morning, Daggoo believes he has spotted Moby Dick. The harpoon boats pursue the...

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Essays About Moby Dick