Chapter 115, “The Pequod Meets the Bachelor”
The Pequod meets the Bachelor in another gam. The Bachelor crew is merry, for they are on the way home to Nantucket with a full ship. Ahab asks if they have seen the White Whale. The commander answers no; they don’t believe in him. They invite Ahab to join in their revelry, and Ahab refuses: “Thou art a full ship and homeward bound, thou sayest; well, then, call me an empty ship, and outward bound” (116. 488).
Chapter 116, “The Dying Whale”
After meeting the Bachelor, the Pequod gets lucky and kills four whales in one day. Ahab sees each of the dying whales turn to face the setting sun.
Chapter 117, “The Whale Watch”
Ahab’s boat stays on the sea all night guarding one of the whale carcasses. The Parsee, Fedallah, takes the watch. Ahab awakens from a nightmare and says he has seen the hearse again. Fedallah says no, there must be two hearses before he dies; one not man-made, and the other of American wood. The Parsee says that he will die first and become Ahab’s pilot, and that furthermore, “hemp only can kill thee” (117. 491). Ahab feels this means the whale will not be his death.
Analysis Chapters 115, 116, and 117
The Bachelor is an apt name for a young man in the voyage of life—lucky, optimistic, successful. Ahab’s ship, although not literally empty, is like him, only half full, on the last leg of its life, bound in another direction, towards death.
Now it becomes clear the Parsee has been Ahab’s spiritual advisor and prophet. Ahab takes all of Fedallah’s prophesies to be proof that he will kill Moby Dick and survive. It is reminiscent of Macbeth’s thinking he would never be defeated because Birnham Wood could not come to Dunsinane. Prophesies, like the one that tricked Oedipus into fulfilling it, have a way of being riddles of the Sphynx. Fedallah is somehow bound to Ahab’s fate and will precede him in death, continuing to pilot his captain.
Now that the prophesies have been set up, the story comes rapidly towards the final action.