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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 49: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 41: Moby-Dick

“Yet, when by this collision forced to turn towards home, and for long months of days and weeks, Ahab and anguish lay stretched together in one hammock, rounding in mid winter that dreary, howling Patagonian Cape; then it was, that his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another; and so interfusing, made him mad. That it was only then, on the homeward voyage, after the encounter, that the final monomania seized him, seems all but certain from the fact that, at intervals during the passage, he was a raving lunatic; and, though unlimbed of a leg, yet such vital strength yet lurked in his Egyptian chest, and was moreover intensified by his delirium, that his mates were forced to lace him fast, even there, as he sailed, raving in his hammock. In a strait-jacket, he swung to the mad rockings of the gales.”




I think people should spend more time on this chapter. All the important inner workings of Ahab are here.

We learn that when Ahab had his leg torn off by the white whale, he had to endure months of anguish until the ship could return home. Imagine medicine back then. Imagine being without a doctor. His body and mind were so broken, in fact, we learn the crew had to place Ahab in a strait jacket and tie him to his bed. There he had to lay, in pain, half crazy, for months.

And now Ahab is home. And we wonder why he is pissed and wants revenge? Something happened to Ahab over those months that most people will never comprehend. How Ishmael knows all of this information is not important. We know it now. And in typical Melville style, it binds us to Ahab. We can’t hate him as much as we did after reading this, can we? I can’t. Would I have been with Ishmael pleading allegiance to Ahab? I wonder.

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