• Year Published: 1851.
  • Pages: 543.

Moby-Dick Summary of Chapters

Chapters 1-20

The narration begins with Ishmael’s dreaming about a great adventure on the sea. He listens to the stories of men who crave for another day on the open sea. He wants to be a part of some great adventure too, and that’s when he decides to go Nantucket.

Unfortunately, he arrives late and misses the ferry to Nantucket. He has to spend few nights in New Bedford. And this is where Ishmael’s adventure actually begins – in the local Spouter-Inn he meets an interesting and unusual harpooner, Queequeg. Initially, the two are very distant and untrustworthy to each other, but as the narration moves forward, they become good friends as they sailed off to the great sea adventure.

Chapters 21-40

Ishmael and Queequeg are leaving to Nantucket on a cold Christmas day. The narration in the first sequence of these chapters is focused on introducing the crew from Pequod, the ship with which Ishmael and Queequeg sailed off to Nantucket.

The variety of new characters on the ship brings a dynamic into the narration. There is not a major event, except for psychological portraying of the ship’s crew. The most interesting persona, however, is the captain Ahab, who is in the search of a great whale, named Moby-Dick.

At the end of this sequence, Ishmael informs us about the science of whales and the whaling industry. Also, there are more dramatic scenes which emphasize the role of the ship’s crew members and reveals Ahab’s goal behind this voyage – to find Moby- Dick.

Chapters 41-60

Here, we are introduced to the great Moby- Dick, the personification of all evil, according to Ahab. Also, the first sequence of chapters doesn’t contain almost any action at all – we are witnessing Ishmael’s reflections upon the past events and especially the characters he is surrounded by.

The first significant action happens with the first lowering when we discover the presence of another shipping crew, which was obviously hidden with Ahab’s help. This brings a significant change in the dynamics of the narration.

Chapters 61-80

The beginning of this chapter sequence introduces the greatest action so far – catching a whale. This opens another detail-oriented series of describing various elements related to whales.

The emphasis of this sequence is on Ishmael’s descriptions and perceptions of whale that had been caught. His insights are philosophical in nature, revealing some deep concerns about human perception, judgment and the ability to deal with the unknown.

Chapters 81-100

The themes of life and death are the universal probes, which Ishmael touches upon in this sequence of chapters. Here, we are getting familiar with the life of a sailor, of his solitude life and everyday dangers he is facing in the sea.

In the second part of this section, we are encountering a bewildering array of materials, ranging from Ishmael’s descriptions of the processing of the whale’s body to the scene where Pip and Captain Boomer faces another lowering.

Chapters 101-120

The scenes of high drama – reaching the peak with Queequeg’s illness and the feeling of soon death alternate with the scenes of tranquility and meditation. Again, we are witnessing Ishmael’s accounts to describe the whale in his totality – and again are fascinated by his vast knowledge and curiosity concerning the greatest creatures in the animal world.

Towards the end of the chapter sequence, we face with Ahab’s increasing power and control over the ship – the whole crew is held prisoners of Ahab’s insatiable desire and madness of catching Moby-Dick.

Chapters 121-133

This is the grand finale, the final confrontation with the great Moby-Dick. As the narration progresses, we can sense the atmosphere of doom and inevitability. At the greatest emotional peak of the novel, we are confronted with the true nature of the characters, their drives, and motives behind their actions. Therefore the change of the ship’s structure: now the minor Pip becomes one of the crew’s centers, which is supported by Ahab. The moment of truth has arrived; leading to Ahab’s self-questioning about his identity and obsession.

At the end of this sequence, we are witnessing the three-day scene of a fight between Pequod’s crew and Moby-Dick. It’s an epic, almost mythical portrait of the historical battle scenes. Unfortunately, Ahab’s destined to lose – bringing himself into the suicidal battle driven solely by emotions, thus demonstrating the human weakness which denotes when faced with the inevitable.


Ishmael is the only survivor after the battle with Moby-Dick. He was found by Rachel, holding onto Queequeg’s coffin as a life buoy.

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