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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 61: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 50: Ahab’s Boat and Crew: Fedallah

“Who would have thought it, Flask!” cried Stubb; “if I had but one leg you would not catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the plug-hole with my timber toe. Oh! he’s a wonderful old man!”


“I don’t think it so strange, after all, on that account,” said Flask. “If his leg were off at the hip, now, it would be a different thing. That would disable him; but he has one knee, and good part of the other left, you know.”


“I don’t know that, my little man; I never yet saw him kneel.”




Such an odd chapter, this one. We begin with levity. Stubb says it’s pretty cool that an old dude (Ahab) with one leg could man a whale boat. Nothing is mentioned about the five mysterious crew members Ahab smuggled in so we can conclude this is old news by now.


Then Flask says it’s no big deal that Ahab manned the whale boat. He still has both knees, after all.

The Stubb says something interesting – that he never has seen Ahab kneel. Perhaps it’s a reference to Ahab never praying, but it tells us something.


The contrast in this chapter is between Fedallah and Ahab. Fedallah is the mystery man of all mystery men. In fact, he is close to not even being real: “He was such a creature as civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only see in their dreams, and that but dimly.” There is more description of Fedallah as ‘ghostly’ but really Fedallah is designed to make Ahab look even more important. Who can find people like this to come to their aid? Why important people, like Ahab, of course.


The take-away from this chapter is that the phantom men Ahab smuggled aboard have been accepted. Fedallah is both more than human and less than human, and Ahab is quite the dude, even with one leg. Business as usual aboard the Pequod and more character building, to be sure.

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