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  • From The Chase-First Day

The Daily Dick: Musings From the Greatest Novel Ever

"Through and through; through every plank and each rib, it thrilled for an instant, the whale obliquely lying on his back, in the manner of a biting shark slowly and feelingly taking its bows full within his mouth, so that the long, narrow, scrolled lower jaw curled high up into the open air, and one of the teeth caught in a row-lock. The bluish pearl-white of the inside of the jaw was within six inches of Ahab's head, and reached higher than that. In this attitude the White Whale now shook the slight cedar as a mildly cruel cat her mouse."


Musing: Moby-Dick is beneath the whale boat headed by Ahab. The while whale seems to be toying with the men by rubbing his head beneath the ship. As a writer, I love to watch Melville at work. The "through and through; through" at the start of the passage slow things down and make us heard the sound of the "t" as the whale's head hits the wood. It echoes. Then the "slowly' and 'feelingly' are tangible and linger. I see it all in the words. Melville repeats the image of the open mouth of the whale and the teeth throughout this scene. But when I go back and read that the whale was six inches from Ahab's head, I cringe.

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