Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick: Chapter 61 Summary & Analysis

Queequeg senses that the presence of the squid means a sperm whale is nearby, and Ishmael, on the watch at the mast-head, spots one the next day; he calls, along with the other crew, that a whale has been sighted, although not the white whale, and boats are sent out to catch it. Stubb and his harpooneer, Tashtego, get to the whale first, and Tashtego hurls the harpoon at the whale, lancing it mortally; Stubb then has the rest of the boat’s crew pull toward the dying whale, and Stubb then stabs the whale dozens of times, causing it to bleed red blood into the water until Tashtego tells Stubb that the whale is finished. Stubb remarks that “both pipes” have gone out: that his customary pipe has been doused with water, and that the whale’s spout is also done, never to blow water and air again.
Stubb once again shows that there is nothing he loves more than hunting whales. In fact, during the whale-hunt, he is at his most lively and attentive—and he has occasion to use his myriad whale-hunting skills. The fact that his pipes go out when hunting the whale underscores the fact that he is smoking a pipe at all while hunting an animal weighing many tons. Stubb’s joy in the chase is a continued marked contrast to Starbuck’s disposition, which is characterized by excessive caution regarding the outcome of the whale-hunt. Starbuck is not in this for passion or fun—he's in it to do the job, to make the money.
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