Moby Dick "Hands Off From That Holiness!"

Herman Melville

"Hands Off From That Holiness!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Pip, the Negro boy, "the most insignificant of the Pequod's crew" on the cruise after the albino whale Moby Dick, has gone into the whale-boat of Stubb, the second mate, and when the whale is struck and in turn raps the bottom of the boat, in utter terror he has jumped overboard. Warned earlier that if he jumps this second time he will be abandoned, the boy has nevertheless leaped from the boat again. Momentarily abandoned in the sea, Pip has gone mad. As Melville says: "The intense concentration of self in the middle of such a heartless immensity, my God! who can tell it?" In his madness, Pip wanders around the ship talking nonsense. Frequently he gets in the way of the other men, or annoys them with his seeming gibberish. But Ahab is almost unmanned by Pip: "Thou touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my heart-strings," he says. Once when the log has been heaved and the line has broken, the Manxman, weakened by foreboding, criticizes Pip, who has wandered by talking his strange talk. The following conversation ensues between the Manxman and Ahab:

"Peace, thou crazy loon," cried the Manxman, seizing him by the arm. "Away from the quarter-deck!"
"The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser," muttered Ahab, advancing. "Hands off from that holiness!"