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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 39: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Updated: Mar 3

Chapter 36: Day 39: The Quarter-Deck

“What is it more? From this one poor hunt, then, the best lance out of all Nantucket, surely he will not hang back, when every foremast-hand has clutched a whetstone? Ah! constrainings seize thee; I see! the billow lifts thee! Speak, but speak!—Aye, aye! thy silence, then, that voices thee. (Aside) Something shot from my dilated nostrils, he has inhaled it in his lungs. Starbuck now is mine; cannot oppose me now, without rebellion.”

“God keep me!—keep us all!” murmured Starbuck, lowly.”




Ahab continues with an impassioned, reasonable speech about how sometimes things in the universe, like revenge, are things worth fighting for. Ahab notes that even he wonders if the whale meant to hurt him: “Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ’tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him.” But then he figures if I feel the whale did this to me, then I will get him back. It’s enough to feel the need for vengeance, according to Ahab.

After Ahab says his peace, he gives Starbuck the opportunity to speak back. But Starbuck stays silent and this silence, according to Ahab, is what speaks for Ahab. Ahab knows that Starbuck will not act further to stop the captain. He knows he has Starbuck if not in common thought, in complicitous silence. Lord I hope that are not many of us like Starbuck, though I know there are.

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