Mar 05 2010

Outlets at Sea

Published by at 7:09 pm under Characters and characterization

It seems everyone on the Pequod has some type of outlet, some means or object of self-medication, dissociation, or meditation at sea. For Ishmael it is simply going to sea–his substitute for pistol and ball. For Queequeg, it is his little black idol. For Subb, of course, his pipe, and Flask, his drink.

But what about Ahab? What is his outlet for driving away the spleen? I don’t believe he has one, and I think that is precisely one reason he is wound up the way he is. Almost any man on the ship would go nuts without some kind of reprieve or belief or something to take the edge off of one’s depression or boredom or pondering. But Ahab does not appear to have or seek any means of doing so, and therefore is stark mad and thoroughly agitated.

Or perhaps as a result of his madness, his spitefulness, or his monomania, he has cast aside all of his outlets and diversions. He abandoned his family, cast away his pipe, cast away anything that got in between him and the target of his revenge that goes beyond revenge.

One might say that Moby Dick is his outlet. And perhaps it is in some backwards fashion. Instead of praying and worshiping a deity Ahab only condemns his foe. Instead of writing letters home, he writes out his plans for the death of the white whale.

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