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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 28: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 28: Day 28: Ahab

“And, by and by, it came to pass, that he was almost continually in the air; but, as yet, for all that he said, or perceptibly did, on the at last sunny deck, he seemed as unnecessary there as another mast. But the Pequod was only making a passage now; not regularly cruising; nearly all whaling preparatives needing supervision the mates were fully competent to, so that there was little or nothing, out of himself, to employ or excite Ahab, now; and thus chase away, for that one interval, the clouds that layer upon layer were piled upon his brow, as ever all clouds choose the loftiest peaks to pile themselves upon.




I’m just going to point out that Ishmael can certainly latch on to a theme. We’ve seen his thoughts on how noble man in the ideal is and how greatness in a person is somehow visible. We see that again here.

Although Ish thinks Ahab’s presence on deck is pretty useless, nonetheless Ahab is there. And on his face is contentment, though Ish warns us that soon clouds will gather above Ahab. But, Ish says, that’s because clouds always pile on to lofty peaks. The grandeur of Ahab is emphasized here. The theme of greatness being recognized by nature is here. Ish is impressed by the Captain. It seems the whole crew is.

To write a book with a character like Ahab and not go overboard (no pun intended – yet) is difficult. Ahab will mesmerize his crew, but he can’t seem like a snake oil salesman to the reader. Ahab has to seem charismatic, but human. The leg helps humanize him. The scars, the moodiness, the backstory, all seek to elevate him. Ahab has survived a tragedy. Can we blame him for his foibles, his anger, his choices?

I am reading this book again and seeing how carefully Melville is crafting Ahab. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

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