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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 11: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 8: Day 11: The Pulpit

“I was not prepared to see Father Mapple, after gaining the height, slowly turn round, and stooping over the pulpit, deliberately drag up the ladder step by step. [ . . . ] Can it be then, that by that act of physical isolation, he signifies his spiritual withdrawal for the time, from all outward worldly ties and [sic] connexions.”



Father Mapple appears while Ishmael is in the chapel and we get a brilliant description of the rope ladder Father Mapple must climb to enter the pulpit.

What struck me this reading is how we will see another rope ladder later in the book where Ahab, sans a leg, cannot climb as deftly as Father Mapple. But save this thought for later.

What I hit on this reading was how this scene depicts the essence of retreat. To enter a space where you mentally and physically leave the world is, as Melville writes, a deliberate act. Too often we try to take time to clear our heads so we can write or create, but do we deliberately take the necessary steps to separate us from our daily routine? I know I don’t. I still have my email open and my phone and the world at my back.

Father Mapple, aside from delivering a sermon for the ages, offers a great example of how to retreat from the world for a time by deliberately isolating ourselves from the world. Not sure why I never saw this in previous readings, but how cool to come across it today. When you take a journey with Moby-Dick, you never know what will strike you.

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