by Herman Melville
Moby-Dick Madness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"What we come twenty thousand miles to get is worth saving, Sir."
"So it is, so it is; if we get it."
"I was speaking of the oil in the hold, Sir."
"And I was not speaking or thinking of that at all. Begone! Let it leak! I’m all aleak myself. Aye! leaks in leaks! not only full of leaky casks, but those leaky casks are in a leaky ship; and that’s a far worse plight than the Pequod’s, man. Yet I don’t stop to plug my leak; for who can find it in the deep-loaded hull; or how hope to plug it, even if found, in this life’s howling gale?" (109.6-9)
Here Ahab gives the impression that he’s capable of snapping out of his madness, or "plugging his leak," if he wanted to, but that it’s so difficult as to be nearly impossible – and he doesn’t want to anyway. It’s interesting to think about whether Ahab is indulging in his madness on purpose.
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? (113.4)
Again Ahab presents madness as a choice – here, he suggests that it’s the only reasonable reaction to the unreasonable suffering that human beings have to endure in the world.
"Here, boy; Ahab’s cabin shall be Pip’s home henceforth, while Ahab lives. Thou touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my heart-strings. Come, let’s down."
"What’s this? here’s velvet shark-skin," intently gazing at Ahab’s hand, and feeling it. "Ah, now, had poor Pip but felt so kind a thing as this, perhaps he had ne’er been lost! This seems to me, Sir, as a man-rope; something that weak souls may hold by. Oh, Sir, let old Perth now come and rivet these two hands together; the black one with the white, for I will not let this go."
"Oh, boy, nor will I thee, unless I should thereby drag thee to worse horrors than are here. Come, then, to my cabin. Lo! ye believers in gods all goodness, and in man all ill, lo you! see the omniscient gods oblivious of suffering man; and man, though idiotic, and knowing not what he does, yet full of the sweet things of love and gratitude. Come! I feel prouder leading thee by thy black hand, than though I grasped an Emperor’s!"
"There go two daft ones now," muttered the old Manxman. "One daft with strength, the other daft with weakness." (125.26-29)
Ahab and Pip, mad in their different ways, make an ideal pairing. Like Shakespeare's King Lear and his fool (see what Shmoop has to say on King Lear), together they become the tragic hero who falls into a bout of madness and the goofy madman who still manages to be wiser than his master.