Chapter 134, “The Chase—The Second Day”
On the second day, Ahab sees the Great Whale again, and three boats are lowered. All three successfully hurl their harpoons into Moby Dick, but as he thrashes, two of the boats are smashed. Moby Dick dives, then rises to swamp Ahab’s boat. The chase ends, and the Pequod picks them up, all but one—Fedallah is missing.
The omen the Parsee told, that he would go before Ahab, is remembered, but he had also said Ahab would see him before he died, and that Fedallah would pilot him on his final journey. Since he has been swallowed by the sea, Ahab puzzles on this riddle.
Analysis Chapter 134
The crew is by now working as an extension of Ahab’s will: “The hand of Fate had snatched all their souls” (134.547). They act as one, not thirty. Ishmael sees the breaching of Moby Dick as “an act of defiance” and in this way, the whale challenges the men to another chase and is the first to attack all three crews. He cleverly twists the lines of all the harpoons to bring the boats towards him.
Whether or not this can be construed as malice or self-defense on the whale’s part, is open to interpretation. When Moby Dick sounds or dives, he leaves a “boiling maelstrom” (134. 550), another of his deadly circles that will end up destroying everything. The circles and entangling lines are constant symbols of fate. Ahab’s false leg has been snapped, but he declares himself “untouched” and leans on a lance. Stubb says he saw the Parsee dragged under by Ahab’s line, and Starbuck renews his plea to stop: “Shall we be towed by him to the infernal world?” (134. 552).
Ahab’s reply demonstrates that he has chosen to let Fate do its work: “This whole act’s immutably decreed. Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before the ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates’ lieutenant; I act under orders” (134. 552).