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Now that Ahab is so close to the conclusion of his quest for vengeance, there’s something in the expression on his face that’s horrible to see.
The men and mates are mechanical and subdued.
While Ahab may frighten the crew, Fedallah seems to frighten Ahab: Fedallah stands still on deck for hours, watching for the white whale, never sleeping.
Ahab spends all his time on deck now, night and day, with his hat pulled low over his eyes; nobody is sure whether sometimes he drowses like this or whether he’s always awake.
Ahab doesn’t even go into the cabin for his meals. He has them brought out to him twice a day.
Fedallah and Ahab never speak to each other while they’re on watch; at the most they might exchange a word once a day.
Even though they’re doing the same thing, it’s clear that Ahab is the master and Fedallah the slave.
After a few days, when the watchmen on the Pequod haven’t sighted Moby Dick, Ahab starts to believe that all the Christian men are intentionally keeping quiet. He decides he’ll sight the whale himself.
Ahab attaches a basket of rope to the mast and has Starbuck hoist him up so that he can watch the sea for miles around.
Men keeping watch in the rigging usually have a partner on deck holding the rope that keeps them up, and it’s strange that Ahab has chosen Starbuck, the only member of the crew who opposes him, for this job.
The first time Ahab goes aloft like this, a black hawk steals his hat and drops it into the ocean—a strange symbol of something.