Chapter 50 Ahab's Boat and Crew. Fedallah

        Stubb and Flask are discussing the matter of Ahab's whaleboat and the question of whether a one-legged captain should even be in a whaleboat during the hunt. Flask is pro, while Stubb is con. It was a much debated question at the time -- whether a captain, who is of paramount importance to the success of the voyage, should risk his life in a whaleboat. With Ahab in his maimed condition, it was certain that the owners of the Pequod would be dead set against it. But this was not a question of an occasional presence in one of the mate's whaleboats; unbeknownst to the owners, Ahab had stealthily brought a stowaway whaleboat crew of five on board; and Ahab had surreptitiously had a spare whaleboat fitted out with an extra layer of flooring to support his ivory-pointed peg leg. The owners would not have stood for a special boat and extra crew with Ahab as boatheader, and it was not without good cause that Ahab was worried about being accused of usurpation.

        Although the yellow-skinned Parsee sailors were weird and queer, they blended in with the Pequod's motley crew soon enough. Besides, whaleships were always picking up queer castaway creatures found tossing about in the open sea, so that Beelzebub [the devil] himself might one day climb up the side and down into the cabin to chat with the captain, and it would excite no particular notice in the forecastle.

        "Not so their emir, Fedallah -- a muffled mystery to the last. Whence he came; by what sort of unaccountable tie he soon evinced himself to be linked with Ahab's peculiar fortunes; what sort of influence, or authority even, he projected over Ahab -- Heaven knows. All this none knew.

        "Fedallah was a creature such as civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only see in their dreams, and then but dimly. The likes of him glide among the Oriental isles -- those insulated, immemorial lands, which even in modern days preserve much of the ghostly aboriginalness of earth's primal generations. There all men eye each other as real phantoms and ask the sun and the moon why they were created and to what end. There, according to scriptures, angels indeed consorted with the daughters of men -- and devils also indulged in mundane amours."

        And so, in the character of Captain Ahab, we have the American Faust; a Nantucket Quaker whaleman who appears to have SOLD HIS SOUL TO THE DEVIL in return for revenge on Moby Dick. [The Oxford Companion to English Literature cites Moby-Dick as an outstanding example of a "memoir-novel" (a work of fiction that purports to be true autobiographical history). More importantly, the editor of that reference volume cites Moby-Dick as "the closest approach the United States has had to a national prose epic".] This work of American fiction is so many things to so many people, that it is safe to say that it qualifies as timeless, relevant, world-class literature.