Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick: Chapter 51 Summary & Analysis

Over the course of several nights, when the Pequod sails among the smooth, blue, serene waters near the Azores, Fedallah mounts the mast-head and claims to see a white spout around midnight, illuminated by the moon. Although Ahab attempts to pursue this spout, and believes it, along with many of the crew, to be a sign of Moby Dick, the Pequod gets no closer to it, and soon leaves the calm waters and heads toward the Cape of Good Hope, where squalls continually toss the vessel. Ahab maintains a kind of serenity even during these squalls, however, and appears not to mind them; he stands always with his ivory leg screwed into its little bore in the quarter-deck, and keeps a constant lookout for the White Whale.
In some ways, the more difficult or harrowing the situation, the more calm Ahab becomes. It is the storm inside Ahab’s mind, referenced at various points throughout the novel, which causes him the greatest torment. Therefore, an emergency outside his psyche—one that forces Ahab to use his body to fight the sea, a storm, or a whale—is, in a way, a relief from the psychological torture of his monomania. In this case, Ahab seems genuinely to enjoy the ocean’s spray during the storm.
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