Рефераты. American Literature books summary

around the world, Ishmael worries that this is dangerous{they might just be

going on in mazes or will all be "[over]whelmed." Ishmael then explains

that these two ships did not have a "gam." A gam, according to Ishmael, is

"a social meeting of two (or more) Whale-ships, generally on a cruising-

ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boats' crews:

the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one ship, and the two

chief mates on the other."

The Town-Ho's Story is a story within the larger story of Moby-Dick. During

a gam with the ship Town-Ho (which they encounter after the Goney), a white

sailor on the Town-Ho tells this story to Tashtego who shares it with all

the men in the forecastle. Ishmael announces at the beginning of the

chapter that he is telling us what he once told it to some friends in Lima.

The basic story concerns Radney, a mate from Martha's Vineyard, and

Steelkilt, a sailor from Bufialo who have a con ict on board the Town-Ho, a

sperm whaler from Nantucket. Steelkit rebels against Radney's authority,

assaults the mate (after the mate attacks him), and starts a mutiny. The

mutineers are punished and released, but Steelkilt wants revenge. The ship

runs into Moby Dick and, in the process of trying to harpoon him, Radney

falls out of the boat. Moby Dick snatches him in his jaws. Ishmael's

listeners don't necessarily believe him, but he swears on a copy of the

Four Gospels that he is telling the truth.

Chapters 55-65


Here, Melville describes poor representations of whales. To a whaleman who

has actually seen whales, many historical, mythological, and scientific

sources seem inaccurate. As a result, says Ishmael, "you must needs

conclude that the great Leviathan is the one creature in the world which

must remain unpainted to the last." The only solution Ishmael sees is to go

whaling yourself. The next chapter tries to find some acceptable

depictions. To Ishmael's taste the only things that are anywhere close are

two large French engravings from a Garneray painting that show the Sperm

and Right Whales in action. The following chapter tries to expand the

discussion of representations of whales to include whales in various media.

Ishmael then talks about how whalemen have been known to make scrimshaw.

Whalemen who deal with whales so much start seeing whales everywhere, which

is why he mentions stars.

The Brit chapter brings back the encyclopedic cetology chapter type. Brit

is a minute yellow substance upon which the Right Whale largely feeds.

Ishmael uses the chapter as a platform on which to talk about contradictory

views of the sea (frightening "universal cannibalism") and the earth

("green, gentle, and most docile" land). Past the field of Brit in the

water, Daggoo thinks that he sights Moby Dick. It is a false alarm,

however, and it is only a giant squid.

In preparation for a later scene, says Ishmael, he will explain the

whaleline. Made of hemp, this rope is connected to the harpoon at one end

and free at the other so that it can be tied to other boats' lines. Because

it whizzes out when a whale is darted, it is dangerous for the men in the


We then return to more action, where Stubb kills a black sperm whale.

Ishmael vigorously describes the gore to us. In The Dart, Ishmael

backtracks, describing what a harpooneer does and how he uses a dart.

Freely giving his opinion on whaling technique, Ishmael says that mates

should throw both the dart and the lance because the harpooneer should be

fresh, not tired from rowing. Then, to explain the crotch mentioned in the

previous chapter, Ishmael backtracks again to describe the notched stick

that furnishes a rest for the wooden part of the harpoon.

Ishmael then returns to the plot: Stubb wants to eat the freshly killed

whale, although most whalemen do not. (Usually the only creatures that eat

whale meat are sharks.) He calls on the black cook Fleece to make his

supper and make the sharks stop eating the whale esh. In a sermon to the

sharks, the cook tells them that they ought to be more civilized. Stubb and

the cook get into a folksy religious discussion. He then likens Stubb to a

shark. Ishmael then feels that he must describe what whale is like as a

dish. Doing a historical survey of whale-as-dish, Ishmael remarks that no

one except for Stubb and the "Esquimaux" accept it now. Deterrents include

the exceedingly rich quality of the meat and its prodigious quantities.

Furthermore, it seems wrong because hunting the whale makes the meat a

"noble dish" and one has to eat the meat by the whale's own light. But

perhaps this blasphemy isn't so rare, says Ishmael, since the readers

probably eat beef with a knife made from the bone of oxen or pick their

teeth after eating goose with a goose feather.

Chapters 66-73


These chapters get into the minutiae of whaling technique. The Shark

Massacre describes how sharks often swarm around dead whale carcasses,

forcing whalemen to poke them with spades or kill them. Even when sharks

are dead, they are often still dangerous: once, when Queequeg brought one

on deck for its skin, it nearly took his hand off. There's no sacred

Sabbath in whaling, since the gory business of cutting in occurs whenever

there is a kill. Cutting in involves inserting a hook in the whale's

blubber and peeling the blubber off as one might peel off an orange rind in

one strip. Discussing the whale's blubber, Ishmael realizes that it is

dificult to determine exactly what the whale's skin is. There is something

thin and isinglass-like, but that's only the skin of the skin. If we decide

that the blubber of the whale (the long pieces of which are called "blanket-

pieces") is the skin, we are still missing something since blubber only

accounts for 3/4 of the weight of the blanket-pieces. After cutting in, the

whale is then released for its "funeral" in which the "mourners" are

vultures and sharks. The frightful white carcass oats away and a "vengeful

ghost" hovers over it, deterring other ships from going near it.

Ishmael backtracks in The Sphynx, saying that before whalers let a carcass

go, they behead it in a "scientific anatomical feat." Ahab talks to this

head, asking it to tell him of the horrors that it has seen. But Ahab knows

that it doesn't speak and laments its inability to speak: too many horrors

are beyond utterance.

The chapter about the Jeroboam (a ship carrying some epidemic) also

backtracks, referring back to a story Stubb heard during the gam with the

Town-Ho. A man, who had been a prophet among the Shakers in New York,

proclaimed himself the archangel Gabriel on the ship and mesmerized the

crew. Captain Mayhew wanted to get rid of him at the next port, but the

crew threatened desertion. And the sailors aboard the Pequod now see this

very Gabriel in front of them. When Captain Mayhew is telling Ahab a story

about the White Whale, Gabriel keeps interrupting. According to Mayhew, the

Jeroboam first heard about the existence of Moby Dick when they were

speaking to another ship. Gabriel then warned against killing it, calling

it the Shaker God incarnated. They ran into it about a year afterwards and

the ship's leaders decided to hunt it. As the mate was standing in the ship

to throw his lance, the whale ipped the mate into the air and tossed him

into the sea. Nothing was harmed except for the mate, who drowned. Gabriel,

the entire time, had been on the mast-head and said, basically, "I told you

so." When Ahab confirms that he intends to hunt the white whale still,

Gabriel points to him, saying, "Think, think of the blasphemer - dead, and

down there! - beware of the blasphemer's end!" Ahab then realizes that the

Pequod is carrying a letter for the dead mate and tries to hand it over to

the captain on the end of a cutting-spade pole. Somehow, Gabriel gets a

hold of it, impales it on the boat-knife, and sends it back to Ahab's feet

as the Jeroboam pulls away.

Ishmael backtracks again in The Monkey-Rope to explain how Queequeg inserts

the blubber hook. Ishmael, as Queequeg's bowsman, ties the monkey-rope

around his waist as Queequeg is on the whale's oating body trying to attach

the hook. (In a footnote, we learn that only on the Pequod were the monkey

and this holder actually tied together, an improvement introduced by

Stubb.) While Ishmael holds him, Tashtego and Daggoo are also ourishing

their whale-spades to keep the sharks away. When Dough-Boy, the steward,

offers Queequeg some tepid ginger and water, the mates frown at the in

uence of pesky Temperance activists and make the steward bring him alcohol.

Meanwhile, as the Pequod oats along, they spot a right whale. After killing

him, Stubb asks Flask what Ahab might want with this "lump of foul lard."

Flask responds that Fedallah says that a whaler with a Sperm Whale's head

on her starboard side and a Right Whale's head on her larboard will never

afterwards capsize. They then get into a discussion in which both of them

confess that they do not like Fedallah and think of him as "the devil in

disguise." In this instance and always, Fedallah watches and stands in

Ahab's shadow. Ishmael notes that the Parsee's shadow seemed to blend with

and lengthen Ahab's.

Chapters 74-81


The paired chapters (74 and 75) do an anatomic comparison of the sperm

whale's head and the right whale's head. In short, the sperm whale has a

great well of sperm, ivory teeth, long lower jaw, and one external spout-

hole; the right whale has bones shaped like Venetian blinds in his mouth,

huge lower lip, a tongue, and one external spout- hole. Ishmael calls the

right whale stoic and the sperm "platonian." The Battering-Ram discusses

the blunt, large, wall-like part of the head that seems to be just a "wad."

In actuality, inside the thin, sturdy casing is a "mass of tremendous

life." He goes on to explain, in The Great Heidelberg Tun (a wine cask in

Heidelberg with a capacity of 49,000 gallons), that there are two

subdivisions of the upper part of a whale's head: the Case and the junk.

The Case is the Great Heidelberg Tun since it contains the highly-prized

spermaceti. Ishmael then dramatizes the tapping of the case by Tashtego. It

goes by bucket from the "cistern" (well) once Tashtego finds the spot. In

this scene, Tashtego accidentally falls in to the case. In panic, Daggoo

fouls the lines and the head falls into the ocean. Queequeg dives in and

manages to save Tashtego.

In The Prairie, Ishmael discusses the nineteenth-century arts of

physiognomy (the art of judging human character from facial features)and

phrenology (the study of the shape of the skull, based on the belief that

it reveals character and mental capacity). By such analyses, the sperm

whale's large, clear brow gives him the dignity of god. The whale's

"pyramidical silence" demonstrates the sperm whale's genius. But later

Ishmael abandons this line of analysis, saying that he isn't a

professional. Besides, the whale wears a "false brow" because it really

doesn't have much in its skull besides the spermy stufi. (The brain is

about 10 inches big.) Ishmael then says that he would rather feel a man's

spine to know him than his skull, throwing out phrenology. Judging by

spines (which, like brains, are a network of nerves) would discount the

smallness of the whale's brain and admire the wonderful comparative

magnitude of his spinal cord. The hump becomes a sign of the whale's

indomitable spirit.

The Jungfrau (meaning Virgin in German) is out of oil and meets the Pequod

to beg for some. Ahab, of course, asks about the White Whale, but the

Jungfrau has no information. Almost immediately after the captain of the

Jungfrau steps off the Pequod's deck, whales are sighted and he goes after

them desperately. The Pequod also gives chase and succeeds in harpooning

the whale before the Germans. But, after bringing the carcass alongside the

ship, they discover that the whale is sinking and dragging the ship along

with it. Ishmael then discusses the frequency of sinking whales.

The Jungfrau starts chasing a fin-back, a whale that resembles a sperm

whale to the unskilled observer.

Chapter 82-92


Ishmael strays from the main action of the plot again, diving into the

heroic history of whaling. First, he draws from Greek mythology, the Judeo-

Christian Bible, and Hindu mythology. He then discusses the Jonah story in

particular (a story that has been shadowing this entire novel from the

start) through the eyes of an old Sag-Harbor whaleman who is crusty and

questions the Jonah story based on personal experience.

Ishmael then discusses pitchpoling by describing Stubb going through the

motions (throwing a long lance from a jerking boat to secure a running

whale). He then goes into a discursive explanation of how whales spout with

some attempt at scientific precision. But he cannot define exactly what the

spout is, so he has to put forward a hypothesis: the spout is nothing but

mist, like the "semi- visible steam" that proceeds from the head of

ponderous beings such as Plato, Pyrrho, the Devil, Jupiter, Dante, and

himself! In the next chapter, he celebrates a whale's most famous part: his

tail. He likes its potential power and lists its difierent uses.

When the Pequod sails through the straits of Sunda (near Indonesia) without

pulling into any port, Ishmael takes the opportunity to discuss how

isolated and self- contained a whaleship is. While in the straits, they run

into a great herd of sperm whales swimming in a circle (the "Grand

Armada"){ but as they are chasing the whales, they are being chased by

Malay pirates. They try to "drugg" the whales so that they can kill them on

their own time.

(There are too many to try to kill at once.) They escape the pirates and go

in boats after the whales, somehow ending up inside their circle, a placid


But one whale, who had been pricked and was oundering in pain, panics the

whole herd. The boats in the middle are in danger but manage to get out of

the center of the chaos. They try to "waif" the whales{that is, mark them

as the Pequod's to be taken later. Ishmael then goes back to explaining

whaling terms, staring with "schools" of whales. The schoolmaster is the

head of the school, or the lord. The all-male schools are like a "mob of

young collegians." Backtracking to a reference in Chapter 87 about waifs,

Ishmael explains how the waif works as a symbol in the whale fishery. He

goes on to talk about historical whaling codes and the present one that a

Fast- Fish belongs to the party fast to it and a Loose-Fish is fair came

for anybody who can soonest catch it. A fish is fast when it is physically

connected (by rope, etc.) to the party after it or it bears a waif, says

Ishmael. Lawyer- like, Ishmael cites precedents and stories, to show how

dificult it is to maintain rules. In Heads or Tails, he mentions the

strange problem with these rules in England because the King and Queen

claim the whale. Some whalemen in Dover (or some port near there, says

Ishmael) lost their whale to the Duke because he claimed the power

delegated him from the sovereign.

Returning to the narrative, Ishmael says they come up on a French ship

Bouton de Rose (Rose-Button or Rose- Bud). This ship has two whales

alongside: one "blasted whale" (one that died unmolested on the sea) that

is going to have nothing useful in it and one whale that died from


Stubb asks a sailor about the White Whale? Never seen him, is the answer.

Crafty Stubb then asks why the man is trying to get oil out of these whales

when clearly there is none in either whale. The sailor on the Rose-Bud says

that his captain, on his first trip, will not believe the sailor's own

statements that the whales are worthless. Stubb goes aboard to tell the

captain that the whales are worthless, although he knows that the second

whale might have ambergris, an even more precious commodity than

spermaceti. Stubb and the sailor make up a little plan in which Stubb says

ridiculous things in English and the sailor says, in French, what he

himself wants to say. The captain dumps the whales. As soon as the Rose-Bud

leaves, Stubb mines and finds the sweet- smelling ambergris.

Ishmael, in the next chapter, explains what ambergris is: though it looks

like mottled cheese and comes from the bowel of whales, ambergris is

actually used for perfumes. He uses dry legal language to describe

ambergris and discuss its history even though he acknowledges that poets

have praised it.

Ishmael then looks at where the idea that whales smell bad comes from. Some

whaling vessels might have skipped cleaning themselves a long time ago, but

the current bunch of South Sea Whalers always scrub themselves clean. The

oil of the whale works as a natural soap.

Chapters 93-101


These are among the most important chapters in Moby- Dick. In The Castaway,

Pip, who usually watches the ship when the boats go out, becomes a

replacement in Stubb's boat. Having performed passably the first time out,

Pip goes out a second time and this time he jumps from the boat out of

anxiety. When Pip gets foul in the lines, and his boatmates have to let the

whale go free to save him, he makes them angry. Stubb tells him never to

jump out of the boat again because Stubb won't pick him up next time. Pip,

however, does jump again, and is left alone in the middle of the sea's

"heartless immensity." Pip goes mad.

A Squeeze of the Hand, which describes the baling of the case (emptying the

sperm's head), is one of the funniest chapters in the novel. Because the

spermaceti quickly cools into lumps, the sailors have to squeeze it back

into liquid. Here, Ishmael goes overboard with his enthusiasm for the

"sweet and unctuous" sperm. He squeezes all morning long, getting

sentimental about the physical contact with the other sailors, whose hands

he encounters in the sperm. He goes on to describe the other parts of the

whale, including the euphemistically-named "cassock" (the whale's penis).

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