Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick: Chapter 108 Summary & Analysis

Ahab and the carpenter have a dialogue in the form of a play. In the first part of the chapter, the carpenter speaks aloud to himself, narrating the fashioning of Ahab’s new ivory leg. Ahab then overhears him, and the two get into a conversation. The carpenter asks Ahab if it’s true that “dismasted” men still feel their phantom limbs once they’re gone—Ahab says it is true, and makes several allusions to Prometheus, saying the carpenter is like the Greek Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. At the end of the chapter, the carpenter remarks aloud to himself that Ahab is a “queer” or strange man.
Once again, Ahab is compared to Prometheus—only this time, he himself is doing the comparing. Ahab in this case is saying that the carpenter is like Prometheus in that he is giving Ahab a new kind of strength or tool and has stolen that tool from those who would rule over him (i.e. the whales). The carpenter's sense that Ahab is a "queer" man may stem from his sense of Ahab's obsessive quest, but more likely it stems from the carpenter's bemusement with Ahab's literary comparison's and interpretations. As noted regarding the previous chapter, the carpenter is just a carpenter—he does not see himself as "stealing fire from the gods" in making Ahab's leg, or even comprehend such thinking. He sees himself as just making a leg.
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