"All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. [ . . . ] If man will strike, strike though the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ‘tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him.
Musing: We have, in this passage, the biggest 'theme' of the book. What is behind the events in life? Is there anything - anybody - any reason? For Ahab, the loss of his leg means nothing if it happened because the whale was simply acting as a 'dumb brute.' But if Moby Dick took his leg out of malice - then there is something to hate - to fight - to believe in. Don't we all need that too? And shouldn't we, as the idea of the mask implies, try to reach beyond the constructs of our lives?