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Whaling in Moby Dick Research Papers

Whaling in Moby Dick research papers focus on the Whaling center of New Bedford. Melville describes New Bedford’s preeminence: “As most young candidates for the pains and penalties of whaling stop at this same new Bedford, thence to embark on their voyage…. Besides though New Bedford has of late been gradually monopolizing the business of whaling”.  As Ishmael and Queequeg wander the streets of New Bedford, the reader is presented with a cosmopolitan world of sailors.  “In New Bedford, actual cannibals stand chatting at street corners”.  Men from all over the globe, Americans and foreigners mingle, all connected to the whaling industry.  One might hear twenty different languages being spoken in New Bedford at this point in history.

Characters of Moby Dick That Are Whaling

The three most colorful characters aboard the Pequod are the harpooners: Whaling in Moby Dick

  • Queequeg
  • Daggoo
  • Tashtego

Ishmael, for example, is signed for the 275th lay, but Queequeg, after demonstrating his ability, is offered the 90th lay, a great share of any potential profit.  The harpooners in the novel are the great dashing figures, standing in the bow of a rowboat and throwing their weapons down the open mouth of the great fish. “Throughout the sailing-ship era the hand harpoon remained the undisputed whaling weapon, but it was simply a means of getting fast to the whale; it was never actually the killing instrument.  The weapon with which the old-time whale man gave the death blow was the land lance”.  Harvesting a whale became a battle of attrition.  Lances sought to pierce the whale’s lungs.  A second method was to attach drogues, and later whalelines, where the whale dragged the boats along, tiring out the creature.  The final climatic fight with Moby Dick takes place over three days.  And while there is a primary literary reason for this (Christ spends three days in the tomb), it does illustrate the exhaustive nature of whale hunts.


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