"Ahab Too Is Mad"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Pequod, the whaler of the monomaniac Captain Ahab, has finally spoken to a ship that knows of the albino whale Moby Dick. The Rachel fought the whale yesterday and lost a boat to him. The captain of this ship begs Ahab to help search for the boat because it contained the captain's son. But Ahab, impatient to destroy Moby Dick, will not help search for the missing men. After denying the appeal of the captain of the Rachel, Ahab moves about the deck, followed by Pip, the mad Negro cabin boy, who touches the Captain's "inmost centre." Ahab talks to him: "The hour is coming when Ahab would not scare thee from him, yet would not have thee by him. There is that in thee, poor lad, which I feel too curing to my malady." In a moment Ahab says that unless Pip stops talking, the Captain's "purpose keels up in him." Tormented by what Pip means to him, Ahab finally bursts out in a revealing passage:

"Weep so, and I will murder thee! have a care, for Ahab too is mad. Listen, and thou wilt often hear my ivory foot upon the deck, and still know that I am there. . . . God for ever bless thee; and if it come to that,–God for ever save thee, let what will befall."