The minister of The Whaleman’s Chapel arrives, Father Mapple, and he is an impressive figure. In his youth, he was a whaler and now, in his old age, he is a pastor to whalers. His pulpit is constructed to look like the prow of a ship. To reach it, Father Mapple must climb a mariner’s rope-ladder. Behind him is a large painting of a ship in a stormy sea, with an angel flying above it. “Ah, noble ship,” the angel seemed to say, “beat on, beat on.”
Ishmael reflects on the symbolic significance of the ship/pulpit: “Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.” The Whaleman’s Chapel reminds us of the other great cultural tradition of New England besides whaling: Puritan Christianity. The first pilgrims and settlers were Puritan Christians, and this strain of tradition runs from America’s beginnings to the present day, for better and for worse.