Chapter 43, “Hark!”
By night, some of the seamen on the quarter-deck hear strange sounds below in the after-hold, near the captain’s quarters. It is a cough, and they realize someone is on board, who has not yet been seen.
Chapter 44, “The Chart”
Ahab spends a lot of time in his cabin with his charts of sperm whale routes, trying to track the whereabouts of Moby Dick. The whales swim in known trails or veins from one feeding ground to the next, but which route they should take comes from instinct, or “secret intelligence from the Deity” (44. 195). A whale doesn’t always return to the same spot. The most certain calculation for meeting whales in their feeding grounds is called the Season-on-the-line. In order to get to that place for Moby Dick, the Pequod has to wait many months and can afford to take a few whales, meanwhile, hoping to run into the white whale by chance.
Ahab sleeps with clenched fists and cries out in nightmare—a sign, says Ishmael, that his soul is trying to escape his crazed body. It was his tormented spirit alone that kept him alive to finish his task, for at times Ahab looked vacant, “a blankness in itself” (44. 199). He is a Prometheus who has created the thoughts that feed upon him like a vulture, thus making him self-consuming.
Chapter 45,“The Affadavit”
Ishmael wants to reassure us that though Ahab is mad, it is possible for a whale to do the things Moby Dick has done. Whales have survived a harpoon only to be killed by the same hand later on. Certain whales are recognizable and have individual names, like “New Zealand Jack.” He says this story is a reasonable one, not just an allegory. Whales have been known to destroy large ships, and in the smaller boats, hundreds of seamen have been killed in a whale chase. Sperm whales, if given time, will turn and attack with mouths open.
Analysis Chapters 43, 44, and 45
Melville plays a balancing game between myth and fact. Moby Dick’s power derives from both, each magnifying the other.
Ahab’s attempt to chart Moby Dick is an attempt to meet up with his own fate. As he charts the lines on the map, the swinging lamp charts invisible lines on his face. Although Ahab sees an external villain, he creates his own lines of entanglement, emptying himself of life as he chases his obsession. He is compared to the Greek god, Prometheus (literally “forethought”) whose thoughts are eating him alive.
Meanwhile, rumor grows of secret stowaways in the ship’s hold.