Madness isdefined as the “mental delusion or the eccentric behavior arising from it”. Inthe novel, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Captain Ahab fully suits thedefinition of madness. After losing his leg to the great whale, Moby Dick hedeveloped a vigorous appetite to seek vengeance and kill the great whale, fornot only taking his leg but his humanity and stature. Emily Dickson wrote “much madness is divinestSense-To a discerning eye- “meaning that madness is the most profound kind ofsanity when view by someone with good judgement. When Ahab’s madness is lookedat through a “discerning eye”, it becomes acceptable for him to desire revengeon the evil that took his status away.
As the crew’s voyage moved along, Ahabrealizes that Pip, a young boy who is a sailor on the Pequod, is very similarto himself. Pip has the same problem as Ahab, they are both contained withmadness. But the difference between them is “one isdaft with strength, the other daft with weakness”, Pip is very weak whileAhab is driven with strength, making their madness’s differ. (567)Pipis a very weak young boy with a madness of his own. When one of Stubb’s mengets hurt, Pip is assigned as an oarsman on his boat. Unfortunately, Pipdoesn’t have the tendency for whaling, as a whale slams into their boat, hejumps out of it from fear. After he spends some time in the sea alone, “the seahad… drowned the infinite of his soul”, he becomes crazy because of fear and “hesaw God’s foot”. He discovered painful thoughts and visions that made himinsane and “therefore his shipmates called him mad” (454).
Ahab feels kinshipafter he witness this terrifying event so he invites Pip to live in his cabinfor the rest of the voyage. But Pip begins to be attached to Ahab. Pips weak presenceseems to weaken Ahab. In Chapter 129- The Cabin, Pip follows Ahab but he tellshim “must not follow Ahab now” because “in that poor lad, which I feel toocuring to my malady” (580). Malady means sickness, so Ahab is referring to hismadness towards the White Whale, so Ahab is saying that Pips speech and mannermake him doubt his own sinister purpose of being there, or in other words tokill the White Whale. After Ahab leaves Pip behind, Pip sobs the loss ofhimself and Ahab’s company, and states “I’m alone” (581).
Pips madness iscentered around the whole idea of abandonment. After being left alone in theocean by himself he becomes crazy and never wants to be left alone. Through everyone’seyes his madness is clearly seen and his character is definitely defined asbeing weak and fragile.Ahab’s madness isvery strong because he cannot control it until it gets what it wants. Themonomaniacal captain of the Pequod obsesses over catching the White Whale.
Inthe chapter, the doubloon, Ahab examines the coin and he states that he seeshimself. According to the quote, “like magician’s glass, to each and every manin turn but mirrors back his own mysterious self” (147), Ahab thinks the coinis like a mirror to his soul. As he is looking at the coin, he says it has”three peaks as proud as Lucifer” (471). Ahab’s explains that the firm tower,the volcano and the courageous fowl is all him. He is stating that he is a verybrave and a strong man who is ranked higher than everyone on the ship. Ahab’scharacter becomes clear that he is a very angry, selfish, and independent man becauseof his accident with Moby Dick it caused him his dignity and status of being ahuman. During the voyage, he sees himself as he can’t in any way be touched orstopped, “there is one god that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that isLord over the Pequod” (517). In the chapter 100, a gam occurred between thePequod and the Samuel Enderby.
The significance of it was the two contrasts ofthe captain’s attitudes from both ships regarding Moby Dick. Ahab boards theirship and asks the captain “Hast seen the White Whale” (476), Captain Boomer ofthe Samuel Enderby explains to him that he lost his arm while fighting MobyDick. He was injured by a dangling harpoon that was attached to Moby Dick. Hetells Ahab that they encountered Moby Dick again but after Captain Boomerlearned his lesson, he had no desire on fighting the whale again.
As both ofthese captains have similarities, there is one big difference between them. Theought to seek revenge on the White Whale. While everyone else does not want to encounterthe White Whale, especially a second time, Ahab’s madness over powers him tocontinue his vengeance. As the book went on and Ahab became emotionallyattached to Pip, Ahab begins to show little flashes of being sensible.
Inchapter 132, The Symphony, Ahab was keeping watch on the deck and he “dropped atear into the sea”, he talks to Starbuck about his life and how he’s beenwhaling all of his life and how he abandoned his family because of it. In Starbucksexpression, he “see my wife and my child in thine eye” so Ahab orders Starbuckto stay on board when they fight Moby Dick (591). Starbuck tries to convincethat he should stop this silly revenge plan and go home. Ahab’s monomaniac mindtakes over and his “remorseless emperor commands Ahab” to continue on hispath to the whale (592). Ahab’s madness is built with strength, he cannotcontrol it and its taking over his soul.
Ahab and his dare Pip are both brimming withinsanity. Ahab’s nonsense is constructed with driven and toughness. Throughoutthe book, he was driven to get the White Whale, he did not care about anythingelse. And poor Pip, his madness is because of being abandoned and lonely makinghim very weak.
As Ahab and Pip become close to each other near the end of the