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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 51: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Updated: Mar 14

Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale

“Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as the visible absence of colour; and at the same time the concrete of all colours; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows—a colourless, all-colour of atheism from which we shrink?”




This chapter is.a.lot!

Ishmael talks on and on and on about all the possible things in life that are white – polar bears, snow, scary monsters in the woods. But, I think, what he is pointing out is how terrifying the idea of whiteness is. It is not, as Ish points out, an actual color. It is the absence of color. It is nothing and nothingness. White is what is left when everything else is taken away. Like death.


Whiteness does remind us of death. And, going even further, the complete erasure of any color of life. In life, color makes us point, and want to create and, we use it to calm and heal and create a mood. White is impossible to read. Ish says: “Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within.” Color is a distraction. White means you have to place meaning onto the blank space.


So if color makes how we read the world easier, and if white is symbolic of the whale, “Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?”

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