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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 46 Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 41: Moby-Dick

“The whale fishery surpasses every other sort of maritime life, in the wonderfulness and fearfulness of the rumors which sometimes circulate there. For not only are whalemen as a body unexempt from that ignorance and superstitiousness hereditary to all sailors; but of all sailors, they are by all odds the most directly brought into contact with whatever is appallingly astonishing in the sea; face to face they not only eye its greatest marvels, but, hand to jaw, give battle to them. Alone, in such remotest waters, that though you sailed a thousand miles, and passed a thousand shores, you would not come to any chiseled hearth-stone, or aught hospitable beneath that part of the sun; in such latitudes and longitudes, pursuing too such a calling as he does, the whaleman is wrapped by influences all tending to make his fancy pregnant with many a mighty birth.



Ishmael is lending credibility to his beliefs about Moby Dick. As one does once one has made a decision to go all in on a thing. Ish even told us this in an earlier chapter.

I love the sound of this part of the chapter. And it makes sense to me as well. Fishermen are superstitious, Ish says, but it’s all based on the fact that the possibility of truth is there. When they are on a ship, they do see the wildest things in the water. And then, there are times they face the wildest fights in the water with those creatures. We wouldn’t know that, we landlubbers.

But, Ishmael tells us, it’s easy to believe a thing when a thing is possible. And a whale taking revenge on a man is, in the case of sailor lore, entirely possible. Part of this chapter, in my mind, is Ishmael’s rationale for giving in to Ahab’s camp. Given what we know, I am sure Ish is doing all he can to figure out why he so easily bought in to the hype of the white whale. Or is it hype? We’ll see!

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