The Chase for Moby Dick—Day One


Some might think this long past due, but finally, we are drawing to the end of this mad quest. With 25 pages remaining in a 502-page book, Moby Dick, the great white whale is spotted.

Instead of giving up the mad quest, Ahab and his crew see the gliding whale with his white hump above the surface of the sea. Nothing did “surpass the glorified White Whale as he so divinely swam.” Ahab has found God. The religious quest is over!

It was a calm day at sea. “Through the serene tranquilities of the tropical sea, among waves whose hand-clappings were suspended by exceeding rapture. Moby Dick moved on, still withholding from sight the full terrors of his submerged trunk, entirely hiding the wrenched hideousness of his jaw…the grand god, revealed himself, sounded and went out of sight.” God revealed himself only for a moment and disappeared again.  That’s what gods do.

As the three boats waited, the whale did return to the surface in time: he peered into the depths of the sea until “he profoundly saw a white living spot no bigger than a white weasel, with wonderful celerity uprising, and magnifying as it rose, till it turned and then were plainly revealed two long spoked rows of white, glistening, teeth, floating up from the undiscoverable bottom…the glittering mouth yawned beneath the boat like an open-doored, marble tomb.”

With its “malicious intelligence” that only Ahab could see, the whale ducked its head beneath the boat that carried Ahab in hot pursuit and shook it “as a mildly cruel cat her mouse…as the whale dallied with the doomed craft in his devilish way.” Ahab was in the jaws of the whale, like Jonah, but this drove Ahab even madder. “That monomaniac Ahab, furious with this tantalizing vicinity of his foe, which placed him all alive and helpless in the very jaws he hated.” The whale bit Ahab’s boat in two.

Yet Ahab returned to the ship, and they continued the pursuit. Nothing could stop him. As Stubb said, “O whale! The mad fiend himself is after ye!” The men of the crew had “growing awe of Ahab.” The men were in awe of Ahab, they should have feared him.

The chase was not over, but continued into the second day, with the harpoons in the great white whale.

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