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Moby Dick Quotes

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Throughout the novel Moby Dick there are several key quotations that allow the reader to get at the heart of the story. Two in particular deal with the relationship between Captain Ahab and the Great White Whale, and tell a great deal about the story, its themes, and the nature of humanity. The narrator, in Chapter 41, states the following:

Moby Dick Quotes

“All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

The narrator is connecting the struggle that Ahab has with the White Whale to the struggle that all men face in our society. This classic struggle between good and evil manifests itself in a number of ways in our society, but for Ahab, it appeared only once: in his struggle with the whale. The beast comes to symbolize pure evil to him, and he saw his course of action as a noble one, trying to rid the earth of such a figure. This struggle is timeless, and one can only help but wonder if either of the two actors will ever emerge victorious.

A second quote from the book demonstrates the undying nature of the human spirit, personified in Ahab’s persecution of the White Whale. As the tragic action of the story comes to a peak, Ahab faces the whale one-on-one, resulting in the following lines being delivered:

“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!”

To an average reader, these words might seem as though they are something right out of Shakespeare; this is meant to convey the complexity of the action and the struggle faced by Captain Ahab. He knows he will be physically defeated by the whale; he will not, however, lose his spirit. He knows he will lose his life, but he also knows the battle will continue in the hereafter. He has struggled so long against this physical incarnation of pure evil that he knows no other life. Being killed by the whale is the only ending he can fathom, and the only one that would make any sort of sense to both he and the reader.

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