Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick: Chapter 72 Summary & Analysis

Ishmael goes back to the process of “flensing” (or skinning) the whale of its blubber, stating that the man actually doing the cutting on the back of the whale, partially submerged in the water, was Queequeg. Ishmael was tied to Queequeg via something called the monkey-rope, meaning that the two were bound “as Siamese twins,” and in Ishmael’s mind, this embodied the ties between all men, the ties that keep men together and the ties that injure men, too, when something happens “on the other end of the rope.” Queequeg finishes a long day’s work of skinning the whale while Daggoo and Tashtego lance the sharks that are swimming nearby with their harpoons.
Another instance of ropes, or lines, in the novel. Here, instead of simply entangling and endangering men, as does the harpoon-line on a whale-boat, the “monkey-rope” ties together Ishmael and Queequeg. This helps each of them to continue skinning the whale, but also makes both vulnerable—were one of the men to fall, the other would fall as well. This means of support is also a means of potential destruction, as are so many tools aboard a whaling ship, and as are the non-physical connections that bind men together .
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