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  • From The Spirit-Spout

The Daily Dick: Musings From the Greatest Novel Ever

"The strange, upheaving, lifting tendency of the taffrail breeze filling the hollows of so many sails, made the buoyant, hovering deck feel like air beneath the feet; while still she rushed along, as if two antagonistic influences were struggling in her- one to mount direct to heaven, the other to drive yawingly to some horizontal goal. And had you watched Ahab’s face that night, you would have thought that in him also two different things were warring. While his one live leg made lively echoes along the deck, every stroke of his dead limb sounded like a coffin-tap. On life and death this old man walked."


Musing: Fedallah has spotted a whale in the dark of night. The men aboard the Pequod are ready to go. Melville uses the motion of the ship to point out the division in Ahab. Ahab will lower for the whale, to please the men. But this is not the white whale, so Ahab himself is not pleased. The line about walking on life and death always gets me. Aren't we all walking that fine line every day?

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