Chapter 127, “The Deck”
“The Deck” is another Shakespearean scene, a cross between Hamlet’s gravedigger scene and Lear’s on the heath. Ahab considers the paradox of the coffin being used as a life-buoy. He accuses the carpenter of being “as unprincipled as the gods” (127. 518) for confusing the territories of life and death.
Analysis Chapter 127
Melville periodically reverts to the form of a tragic play to remind us of the direction of Ahab’s story. The novel is as much about the inner drama of Ahab as the outer adventure story of whaling and the Pequod’s journey, though Ahab’s inner drama becomes the outer drama. This novel marked a departure in Melville’s earlier straight adventure writing, and it is why the audience did not like it at the time.