Tag Archives: Ahab

monomaniacal chickens

Crime and Punishment Part I, chapter 6

Raskolnikov is reminiscing about how the previous winter a fellow student told him of the pawn broker Alyona Ivanovna.  Rask is repulsed by the woman from the first time he sees her.

Then…a chacter from my literary past jumped out and startled me.  It was Ahab!

The Crime & Punishment text says, “A strange idea was pecking at his brain like a chicken in the egg, and very, very much absorbed him.”

I was instantly reminded of a line from Moby-Dick.  Thankfully, the kindle was willing to help me in my search.

Moby-Dick Chapter 38 “The Quarter-Deck”
D’ye mark him, Flask?” whispered Stubb; “the chick that’s in him pecks the shell. ‘Twill soon be out.”

The mates are talking about Captain Ahab of course.

Perhaps Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov should have had the middle name Ahab.


Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Crime and Punishment, Moby-Dick


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Something’s familiar

Part 1 chapter 3

     It would have been difficult to sink to a lower ebb of disorder, but to Raskolnikov in his present state of mind this was positively agreeable.  He had got completely away from everyone, like a tortoise in its shell, and even the sight of a servant girl who had to wait upon him and looked sometimes into his room made him writhe with nervous irritation.  He was in the condition that overtakes some monomaniacs entirely concentrated upon one thing.

So… if we’re playing Jeopardy and the answer to the 200 dollar space is “Ahab and Raskolnikov”, I respond with the question…

“Who are both monomaniacs?!”

This DIY master’s degree program is really working.


Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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The Wrap-up – First Day

At my husband’s suggestion I took a mind-clearing run, showered with my favorite Whale Roadkill body wash, and our little blogging trio set sail to Starbuck‘s for our end-of-book-answer-all-the-questions-celebrate-the-finish gathering.

We settled our stacks into a cozy corner, scoped out the beverage options, and quizzed the barista on the origin of his employer’s name.  “Uh, yeah, that was in our training, um . . . ah . . . it’s from that book, right?” Our encouraging nods gave him just the confidence he needed to sheepishly mumble, “Moby-Dick?”  We erupted in cheers for the unsuspecting coffee server, grabbed our liquid indulgence, and took our places for an evening of intense discussion.

And intense it was, friends.  We packed so much into that hour and a moiety discussion that this wrap-up will take not one post, but three, yes, three posts to give you all the goods on Moby-Dick.  And, we’re fairly certain that we’ve just dipped our grande-sized cups into the great sea of MD discussion.

We did not settled on the number three merely for the sake of convenience.  No, no, no, You see, three is the key.  Check it out:

3 words in the first sentence,  “Call me Ishmael.”
3 inns in New Bedford
3 memorials in the Whaleman’s Chapel
3 whaling ships from which to choose
3 year voyage on the Pequod
3 captains – Bildad, Peleg, and Ahab
3 masts
3 mates
3 harpooneers
3 parts to the novel- on shore, whaling dictionary, pursuit of Moby Dick
3 BOOKS of whales in Chapter 32 Cetology
3 chapters on the depiction of whales in art
3 years that Ahab spent on land during his 40 year whaling career
3 counselors for Ahab – Fedallah, Pip, and Starbuck
3 times leg losses – to MD the first time, when it ‘undermines’ him, and on the second day of the chase
3 days they chase the White Whale

all pointing to:

Ahab – the Diabolical Trinity

As he studies the doubloon in Chapter 99 he makes sure we can see it, too,

There’s something ever egotistical in mountain-tops and towers, and all other grand and lofty things; look here, – three peaks as proud as Lucifer.  The firm tower, that is Ahab; the volcano, that is Ahab, the courageous, the undaunted, and victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab; all are Ahab; and this round gold is but the image of the rounder globe, which like a magician’s glass, to each and every man in turn but mirrors back his own mysterious self.

Ahab is quite different than our other questing madman friend, Don Quixote.  The captain isn’t errant, he’s evil.  And where there is pure evil, there must be pure good.  You know who the Good is, right?  Not Ishmael, not Pip, not even Starbuck.

Moby Dick

Yup.  Don’t worry, we’re not done exploring that angle, but for today, please return to the ship with whatever is left of your whale boat, think about what you have learned today, and help us identify more triple occurances.  Surely you can give us one or two, or maybe . . .


Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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Flashbacks of Revenge

Sometimes I am reading our current novel and have a flashback to a previous book.  Like when I read this quote from chapter 44 of Moby-Dick:

What trances of torments does that man endure who is consumed with one unachieved revengeful desire.  He sleeps with clenched hands; and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms.

Obviously, Ahab is the character described in the quote, but in the margin of my copy I wrote, “sounds like Roger Chillingworth.”

I love it when a character comes back to visit, even a creepy one like Hester’s husband.

Sperm Whaling. The Chase

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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Moby-Dick, The Scarlet Letter


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Who, us?

primogenitures – n.  the first-born child

Classical Usage: Ahab deemed his leg untrustworthy in Chapter 106, he is filled with anguish, grief, and  despair, and Melville traces back the origins of this gloom, “To trail the genealogies of these high mortal miseries, carries us at last among the primogenitures of the gods; so that, in the face of all the glad, hay-making suns, and sof-cymballing, round harvest-moons, we must needs give in to this:  that the gods themselves are not for ever glad.  The ineffaceable, sad birth-mark in the brow of man, is but the stamp of sorrow in the signers.

Classically Mad Usage:  You know that all three of us here at the blog are primogenitures, right?  Surely you didn’t guess as much based on our need to follow SWB’s book list to a tee, or our compulsion to finish each book even though we might be bored to tears, or our propensity to give you hebdomadal assignments.


Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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Wight Man for the Job

wight – n.  a living being, usually of the human sort

Classical Usage:  There’s no shortage of “white” in this novel, but this homophone is referring the captain of the Pequod, and the difficult he might have with his current disability, “Considering that with two legs man is but a hobbling wight in all times of danger; considering that the pursuit of whales is always under great and extraordinary difficulties; . . . under these circumstances is it wise for any maimed man to enter a whale-boat in the hunt?

Classically Mad Usage:  I plan to use this word in conjunction with our earlier Classic Word of the Day – wottest.  Imagine if someone asks me for recommendations for a good handyman, I could answer, “I wottest a wight.”


Posted by on April 15, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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Cut Clean Off

razeed – v. to cut off the upper deck of a ship

Classical Usage:  Melville doesn’t use this word to describe the action of lowering the profile of any of the vessels we encounter on our journey towards Moby-Dick.  Instead, razeeing is something that the Whale himself did, to Ahab.  Here’s how the crazed captain describes it to his crew, “Aye, aye! it was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day!”

Classically Mad Usage:  Since I don’t foresee the need to talk about undecking a ship any time soon I, like Ahab, will have to come up with a more creative use of the term.  I’ll give it some thought and get back to you, in the meantime I need to go razee the upper deck of clutter on my kitchen counters.

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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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