Moby-Dick By Herman Melville Summary and Analysis Chapters 50-51

Summary

Without the owners' knowledge, Ahab has brought aboard his own private crew of four oarsmen and the harpooner Fedallah. Except for Fedallah, their mystery soon fades; the Pequod crew works with and accepts the aborigines as able seamen. Weeks pass, and the ship approaches the southern tip of Africa. On a moonlit night, Fedallah spots a silvery spout in the distance.

Analysis

These chapters provide further insight into the character of Fedallah, who still remains an inscrutable figure. He moves about like a phantom and seems to have an odd influence over Ahab. Ishmael compares him to a type of ancient, ghostlike figure, which one might find among the unchanging Asian communities. He may even be a demon.

The silvery spout, which Fedallah first spots in the distance while standing mainmast watch at night, adds to the mysterious atmosphere. Try as it might, the Pequod can never catch up to it. Sometimes it disappears for days at a time. The vision, if that's what it is, seems to appear and vanish at will, repeatedly, but is seen only at night. Some of the men claim that it is Moby Dick — taunting, luring, beckoning them to follow, again and again, until the White Whale can at last turn and destroy them. Rounding the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of Africa, the ship finally loses the silvery specter, which is replaced by very real winds and rough seas.

Glossary

vicissitude a condition of constant change or alternation, mutability.

Beelzebub a chief devil; sometimes used for Satan.

yaw to swing back and forth across its course, as a ship hit by high waves.

repugnance extreme dislike or distaste, aversion.

perfidious dishonest, betraying, treacherous.

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