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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 27: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 28: Day 27: Ahab

“There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate, [sic] unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless, forward dedication of that glance. Not a word he spoke; nor did his officers say aught to him; though by all their minutest gestures and expressions, they plainly showed the uneasy, if not painful, consciousness of being under a troubled master-eye. And not only that, but moody stricken Ahab stood before them with a crucifixion in his face; in all the nameless regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe.




I feel like just letting this passage stand for itself. The writing. Good grief. Melville: “a crucifixion in his face.” I could live forever and not write a sentence like that. So glorious.

Ahab, however – not so glorious. Ishmael has been on board the ship for some days now and has been desperate to see Ahab. Now he has. Our first description of the Captain is this: “Threading its way out from among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his tawny scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing, you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish. It resembled that perpendicular seam sometimes made in the straight, lofty trunk of a great tree, when the upper lightning tearingly darts down it, and without wrenching a single twig, peels and grooves out the bark from top to bottom, ere running off into the soil, leaving the tree still greenly alive, but branded.

So we know Ahab is marked by fire and has a crucifixion in his face. Welcome aboard The Pequod!

In spite of all this, Ish says that Ahab has dignity in his bearing. So here is the second time excuses are made for Ahab. He has his humanities, Bildad says, and he is regal, Ishmael says. But there is no doubt that our initial introduction to Ahab leaves us with the impression that he is a broken, scarred man.

Only a truly masterful writer could introduce a character like Ahab in this way. The introduction matches the intensity of this character. Ahab is definitely the cool kid on the ship. So we await more!

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