"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, Chapters 48–54

Ishmael recounts his time sailing with Ahab, a one-legged sea captain who is willing to sacrifice everything to hunt and kill a white whale called Moby Dick.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1–9, Chapters 10–21, Chapters 22–31, Chapters 32–40, Chapters 41–47, Chapters 48–54, Chapters 55–65, Chapters 66–73, Chapters 74–81, Chapters 82–92, Chapters 93–101, Chapters 102–114, Chapters 115–125, Chapters 126–132, Chapters 133–Epilogue

Here are links to our lists for other works by Herman Melville: Billy Budd,
Bartleby, the Scrivener

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definitions & notes only words
  1. celerity
    a rate that is rapid
    The phantoms, for so they then seemed, were flitting on the other side of the deck, and, with a noiseless celerity, were casting loose the tackles and bands of the boat which swung there.
  2. inculcate
    teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions
    Stubb's exordium to his crew is given here at large, because he had rather a peculiar way of talking to them in general, and especially in inculcating the religion of rowing.
  3. obliquely
    at a slanting angle
    In obedience to a sign from Ahab, Starbuck was now pulling obliquely across Stubb's bow; and when for a minute or so the two boats were pretty near to each other, Stubb hailed the mate.
  4. advent
    arrival that has been awaited
    Now the advent of these outlandish strangers at such a critical instant as the lowering of the boats from the deck, this had not unreasonably awakened a sort of superstitious amazement in some of the ship's company; but Archy's fancied discovery having some time previous got abroad among them, though indeed not credited then, this had in some small measure prepared them for the event.
  5. conjecture
    a hypothesis that has been formed by speculating
    It took off the extreme edge of their wonder; and so what with all this and Stubb's confident way of accounting for their appearance, they were for the time freed from superstitious surmisings; though the affair still left abundant room for all manner of wild conjectures as to dark Ahab's precise agency in the matter from the beginning.
  6. tyro
    someone new to a field or activity
    At any time it is a strange sight to the tyro to see with what wondrous habitude of unconscious skill the whaleman will maintain an erect posture in his boat, even when pitched about by the most riotously perverse and cross- running seas.
  7. solicitude
    a feeling of excessive concern
    Meanwhile Stubb, the third mate, betrayed no such far-gazing solicitudes.
  8. entreaty
    earnest or urgent request
    Only the silence of the boat was at intervals startlingly pierced by one of his peculiar whispers, now harsh with command, now soft with entreaty.
  9. inscrutable
    of an obscure nature
    But what it was that inscrutable Ahab said to that tiger- yellow crew of his -- these were words best omitted here; for you live under the blessed light of the evangelical land.
  10. suffuse
    become overspread as with a fluid, a color, or light
    Soon we were running through a suffusing wide veil of mist; neither ship nor boat to be seen.
  11. welter
    toss, roll, or rise and fall in an uncontrolled way
    Floating on the waves we saw the abandoned boat, as for one instant it tossed and gaped beneath the ship's bows like a chip at the base of a cataract; and then the vast hull rolled over it, and it was seen no more till it came up weltering astern.
  12. desperado
    a bold outlaw
    There is nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this free and easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy; and with it I now regarded this whole voyage of the Pequod, and the great White Whale its object.
  13. paramount
    having superior power and influence
    Among whale-wise people it has often been argued whether, considering the paramount importance of his life to the success of the voyage, it is right for a whaling captain to jeopardize that life in the active perils of the chase.
  14. evince
    give expression to
    There seemed but little in the words, but the tone conveyed more of deep helpless sadness than the insane old man had ever before evinced.
  15. unwonted
    out of the ordinary
    Had the trump of judgment blown, they could not have quivered more; yet still they felt no terror; rather pleasure. for though it was a most unwonted hour, yet so impressive was the cry, and so deliriously exciting, that almost every soul on board instinctively desired a lowering.
  16. vacuity
    total lack of meaning or ideas
    But, at last, when turning to the eastward, the Cape winds began howling around us, and we rose and fell upon the long, troubled seas that are there; when the ivory-tusked Pequod sharply bowed to the blast, and gored the dark waves in her madness, till, like showers of silver chips, the foam-flakes flew over her bulwarks; then all this desolate vacuity of life went away, but gave place to sights more dismal than before.
  17. perfidious
    tending to betray
    Rather Cape Tormentoto, as called of yore; for long allured by the perfidious silences that before had attended us, we found ourselves launched into this tormented sea, where guilty beings transformed into those fowls and these fish, seemed condemned to swim on everlastingly without any haven in store, or beat that black air without any horizon.
  18. raiment
    especially fine or decorative clothing
    They seemed clad in the skins of beasts, so torn and bepatched the raiment that had survived nearly four years of cruising.
  19. trifle
    a detail that is considered insignificant
    Though in the course of his continual voyagings Ahab must often before have noticed a similar sight, yet, to any monomaniac man, the veriest trifles capriciously carry meanings.
  20. ostensible
    appearing as such but not necessarily so
    The ostensible reason why Ahab did not go on board of the whaler we had spoken was this: the wind and sea betokened storms.
  21. betoken
    be a signal for or a symptom of
    The ostensible reason why Ahab did not go on board of the whaler we had spoken was this: the wind and sea betokened storms.
  22. foible
    a minor weakness or peculiarity in someone's character
    But this is a harmless little foible in the English whale-hunters, which the Nantucketer does not take much to heart; probably, because he knows that he has a few foibles himself.
  23. lexicon
    a reference book containing an alphabetical list of words
    Certainly it needs a definition, and should be incorporated into the Lexicon.
  24. cavalier
    given to haughty disregard of others
    Of those fine cavaliers, the young Dons, Pedro and Sebastian, were on the closer terms with me; and hence the interluding questions they occasionally put, and which are duly answered at the time.
  25. conflagration
    a very intense and uncontrolled fire
    Heated and irritated as he was by his spasmodic toil at the pumps, for all his first nameless feeling of forbearance the sweating Steelkilt could but ill brook this bearing in the mate; but somehow still smothering the conflagration within him, without speaking he remained doggedly rooted to his seat, till at last the incensed Radney shook the hammer within a few inches of his face, furiously commanding him to do his bidding.
  26. baleful
    threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments
    But sliding down the ropes like baleful comets, the two Canallers rushed into the uproar, and sought to drag their man out of it towards the forecastle.
  27. fetid
    offensively malodorous
    The fetid closeness of the air, and a famishing diet, united perhaps to some fears of ultimate retribution, had constrained them to surrender at discretion.
  28. miscreant
    a person without moral scruples
    And here, gentlemen, the foul play of these miscreants must come out.
  29. besiege
    surround so as to force to give up
    'Just after dark that day, when one watch had retired below, a clamor was heard in the forecastle; and the two trembling traitors running up, besieged the cabin door, saying they durst not consort with the crew.
  30. maelstrom
    a powerful circular current of water
    But the whale rushed round in a sudden maelstrom; seized the swimmer between his jaws; and rearing high up with him, plunged headlong again, and went down.

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