«From hell’s heart I stab at thee» – four selected quotes

Here are some of the most memorable quotes of my reading of Moby Dick:

 

Ishmael, the narrator, starts to describe how he became a whaler

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.
 

 

Ahab, the monomaniacal captain of the ship, reflects on how he has got the crew on his side for his mission of hunting the white whale.

‘Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they revolve.

 

 

Ahab tries to express his obsession with hunting the whale.

All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall.

 
 

Perth, the blacksmith of the ship, a man who suffered great tragedy, is talking to Ahab. Ahab is surprised that he is not scorched; and surprised he’s not mad.

“look here, they burn; but thou—thou liv’st among them without a scorch.”
“Because I am scorched all over, Captain Ahab,” answered Perth, resting for a moment on his hammer; “I am past scorching; not easily can’st thou scorch a scar.”
“Well, well; no more. Thy shrunk voice sounds too calmly, sanely woeful to me. In no Paradise myself, I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should’st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can’st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can’st not go mad?”

 

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