In Moby Dick we come to realize Captain Ahab is mad in his monomaniacal quest. “He was now both chasing and being chased to his deadly end.” Yet there was an amazing chance for him to change course. A chance to turn the quest from the malign to the benign.
An amazing encounter is experienced in the Pacific Ocean when the Pequod, of Nantucket, captained by a madman meets the Samuel Enderby, of London. The captain of that English ship could not have been more different than Captain Ahab. The English captain lost an arm and leg to Moby Dick. He should have been twice as enraged as Ahab. But he saw the whale as noble. It had a tale “like a marble steeple” he said. The English ship and crew escaped with their lives, but had no thought of revenge. Unlike Ahab the captain of the English ship knew resentment was a poison. He thought Moby Dick doesn’t bite as much as he swallows, and he was lucky to have escaped. At sea, he crossed the white whale twice again but gave him a wide birth. He decided not to fight nature. The opposite of Ahab. The English captain said whales could not really eat humans and told Ahab “what you took for the White Whales malice was only awkwardness.”
So, the English ship returned home filled with all she needed. The captain and crew were content. They saw no need for a mad quest. “He’s best left alone, don’t you think” he asked Ahab. Ahab had a surprising admission. “He is, but he will still be hunted for all that. What is best left alone, that accursed thing is not always what least allures. He’s all a magnet.” Sometimes the mad quest attracts.
The English mate gave Ahab a wide birth when he walked around him. He could tell that Ahab’s blood “was at the boiling point!—his pulse makes these planks beat!” So it is with the Ahabs of the world. They are cursed by their quests. The quests drive them mad.