Herman Melville

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Moby-Dick can help.

Moby-Dick: Chapter 69 Summary & Analysis

Ishmael reports that the whale’s carcass is cut away from the ship after its head is taken on board (since the head contains most of the whale oil) and the blubber is safe in the blubber room. Ishmael notes that, although vultures will pick at the carcass for many months on the high seas, it looks like a “white phantom” there, and boats will steer clear of it as long as it persists, since the whale without its blubber and head is a shocking sight, even to accustomed sailors.
Unlike a human corpse, which, when buried at sea, disappears quickly under the waves with little more than a splash, the whale’s carcass tends to float, and takes an immensely long time to decompose, once the sharks have stripped away all its meat and blubber. Ishmael appears haunted by the continued presence of the whale’s body, even after death.
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Nature and Man Theme Icon
Race, Fellowship, and Enslavement Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon