Through the contrasting characters of Ahab and Pip, the novel presents two very different portraits of madness and its consequences. Throughout the voyage, Ahab’s madness holds sway over the sanity of other characters, most notably his reasonable and prudent first mate Starbuck. Insanity of a different kind is seen in Pip who, like Ahab, goes mad after a traumatic experience at sea. However, while Ahab’s madness propels him to action, Pip’s madness effectively paralyzes him and leaves his mind empty. Perhaps fittingly, then, Pip is the only person on board with whom Ahab develops an affectionate and protective relationship.
One of the interesting implications of madness aboard the Pequod, however, is the willingness of the members of the crew to go along with Ahab’s strange quest, even when they recognize how difficult, perhaps impossible, it would be to find a single whale in all the oceans of the world. But the crew of the Pequod does sign on for the whale-hunt, motivated not simply by the presence of the gold doubloon (which eventually goes down with the ship), but by the mania Ahab has encouraged, the “monomaniacal” pursuit for one whale.
Madness Quotes in Moby-Dick
Ye’ve shipped, have ye? Names down on the papers? Well, well, what’s signed, is signed; and what’s to be, will be; and then again, perhaps it won’t be, after all.
But as in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God—so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety!
For one, I gave myself up to the abandonment of the time and the place; but while yet all a-rush to encounter the whale, could see naught in that brute but the deadliest ill.
Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only thought numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.
Oh, Life! Here I am, proud as a Greek god, and yet standing debtor to this block-head for a bone to stand on. Cursed be that mortal interindebtedness which will not do away with ledgers. I would be free as air; and I’m down in the whole world’s books.
They asked him, then, whether to live or die was a matter of his own sovereign will and pleasure. He answered, certainly. In a word, it was Queequeg’s conceit, that if a man made up his mind to live, mere sickness could not kill him: nothing but a whale, or a gale, or some violent, ungovernable, unintelligent destroyer of that sort.
Men, this gold is mine, for I earned it; but I shall let it abide here till the White Whale is dead; and then, whosoever of ye first raises him, upon the day he shall be killed, this gold is that man’s, and if on that day I shall again raise him, then, ten times its sum shall be divided among all of ye! Away now!