Chapter129, “The Cabin”
When Pip tries to follow Ahab on deck, Ahab sends him below, because he realizes the boy has some curative effect on him: “Like cures like; and for this hunt my malady becomes my most desired health” (129. 524).
Chapter 130, “The Hat”
All day Ahab paces the deck waiting for the final chase of Moby Dick. The crew is tense. After four days without sighting a whale, Ahab mounts the crow’s nest himself and does not notice when a hawk carries off his hat.
Chapter 131, “The Pequod Meets the Delight
A final gam with The Delight brings news of the White Whale. Five men from this ship died in an encounter with Moby Dick, and the captain shows the remains of a splintered boat as testimony, saying no one can kill this whale. Ahab lifts his own harpoon in answer.
Chapter 132, “The Symphony”
On a transparently pure day at sea even Ahab leaves off watching and rests at the ship rail. Starbuck joins him as Ahab tells Starbuck about his life. He has only seen his wife twice since their marriage; he feels remorse. Starbuck makes a final plea to return home and leave off the hunt. Ahab refuses, saying he does not know what is pushing him on.
Analysis Chapters 129, 130, 131, and 132
Ishmael says of these final days, it is as though Ahab’s whole life was one watch on deck and that the “polar star” of his iron soul is Moby Dick whom every gam has confirmed to be in “demoniac indifference” to humans. The Parsee hovers around Ahab, as though Ahab’s slave; the two are mysteriously yoked together.
The mild day before the final chase is a glimpse of Ahab’s other side, his lost humanity. First, it is revealed in his rejection of Pip, for he knows the boy can soften his heart. Secondly, his confession to Starbuck shows he is aware of what he has thrown away in his life, and that he is sorry for it.
The mild day at sea is described as a divine marriage of masculine sun and feminine sea, a unity where all of nature seems in a “symphony” with humanity. In this softness, even Ahab is touched: “Ahab dropped a tear in the sea, nor did all the Pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop” (132. 532). The “step-mother world” disappears for a moment, and he expresses regret. He compares himself to “Adam staggering beneath the piled centuries since Paradise” (132. 534).
Ahab knows it is the hardship of life that has made him cruel. This scene is reminiscent of the moment in Milton’s Paradise Lost when Satan, seeing the beauty of paradise and Adam and Eve, expresses a similar regret at his own fall. Ahab’s tear of repentance is precious to God, says Ishmael. It is a moment of salvation, for he surrenders to his own humanity and sanity.
Yet it is momentary. Ahab tells Starbuck to stay on board when he chases Moby Dick, so Starbuck at least can reach home, for he doesn’t know what pushes him on—God or fate. He must continue to the end.
Starbuck is so moved at Ahab’s confession, he cries, “my Captain! noble soul! grand old heart!” (132. 534). Ahab cannot rid himself of his compulsion, but Starbuck sees the nobility and remorse in the mad old man, and it melts his heart. This demonstrates Ahab’s magnetism. His winning over Starbuck is significant.