Moby-Dick By Herman Melville Summary and Analysis Chapter 81

Summary

Continuing with its voyage, the Pequod soon comes across the German whaler Jungfrau, Derick De Deer captain. The Jungfrau has had no success hunting whales and desperately needs to procure some oil for its own use. It has not encountered the White Whale. Ahab is disappointed but supplies the oil. Before Captain Derick can return to his ship, a pod of whales is sighted. Both crews give chase with disappointing results. The Jungfrau crew chases a fin-back.

Analysis

The gams that the Pequod encounters are usually frustrating or otherwise disappointing. Ahab is interested only in information regarding Moby Dick. When the other ship has not encountered the White Whale, or its captain wants to discuss something else, Ahab prefers to move on as soon as possible. Communication is even more strained than usual with the Jungfrau because of the language barrier, which some critics see as symbolic of the difficulty involved in a visitor's attempt at any conversation with Ahab.

Jungfrau is German for "young woman," which Melville translates as "virgin." The ship is a virgin in the sense that it is inexperienced. It is, Ishmael tells us, "clean" — that is, it is empty of oil and has not yet secured its first whale. The captain and crew of the German vessel are woefully inexperienced at whaling. Ahab's men easily beat the Germans to the one whale in the pod that is captured, although the sperm whale seems sickly and soon sinks to the bottom of the ocean. The Germans then naively take after a fin-back whale, which a novice might confuse with a sperm because the spouts are similar. Veteran whalers do not pursue the fin-back because it is too swift to be caught. Ahab's experienced men desist. Captain Derick encourages pursuit. At the end of the chapter, Ishmael offers one of his universal observations, inferred from the specific situation, as he comments on the futile chase: "Oh! many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the Dericks, my friend."

Glossary

Newcastle a city in England known for its coal production.

pod here, a group of whales, usually about eight to a pod according to Ishmael.

jaundice an infirmity in which the eyeballs, skin, and urine become abnormally yellowish as a result of increased bile in the blood.

paregoric a medication that soothes or lessens pain.

Canst thou fill . . . shaking of a spear." Old Testament, Job 41:7, 26-34.

effected brought about by a cause or agent.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

Queequeg’s native island is called




Quiz