Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick: Chapter 84 Summary & Analysis

Stubb, the most skilled of the headmen of the whaleboats, tracks another whale from his whale-boat and kills it by “pitchpoling,” a method Ishmael describes in this chapter. In it, Stubb takes a smaller, shorter harpoon, rests it with the tip upward on his palm, and launches it “in a lofty arch” like a javelin into the sky—the spear then lands in the whale, stabbing it deeply. After repeated efforts, Stubb has so thoroughly stabbed the whale that it expires and stop its “run,” which has dragged the whaleboat a great distance along the surface of the water.
Another of the techniques a whaler might use in order to subdue a particularly ornery whale. Stubb, again, is a notable practitioner of pitchpoling, which is very similar to javelin-throwing, and which has an equally grand and classical charm to it. Again, Ishmael seeks to describe whale-hunting as the grand enterprise he believes it to be.
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