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  • From Ahab and the Carpenter

The Daily Dick: Musings From the Greatest Novel Ever

Ahab: "Look ye, carpenter, I dare say thou callest thyself a right good workmanlike workman, eh? Well, then, will it speak thoroughly well for thy work, if, when I come to mount this leg thou makest, I shall nevertheless feel another leg in the same identical place with it; that is, carpenter, my old lost leg; the flesh and blood one, I mean. Canst thou not drive that old Adam away?

Carpenter: Truly, sir, I begin to understand somewhat now. Yes, I have heard something curious on that score; how that a dismasted man never entirely loses the feeling of his old spar, but it will be still pricking him at times. May I humbly ask if it be really so, sir?

Ahab: It is, man. Look, put thy live leg here in the place where mine was; so, now, here is only one distinct leg to the eye, yet two to the soul. Where thou feelest tingling life; there, exactly there, there to a hair, do I. Is’t a riddle?

Carpenter: I should humbly call it a poser, sir.


Musing: I like this exchange between the carpenter and Ahab. Ahab's character is about to become dark again. Melville puts in these bits of humanity so we can remember Ahab is a living man full of pain both real and imaginary.

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