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The Vengeful Heart that Drives Moby Dick and The Revenant

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Before the monstrous sperm whale “reaped away Ahab’s leg,” the raging Captain had “dashed at the whale with a six inch blade to reach the fathom deep life of Moby Dick.” So wrote Herman Melville. And ever since that fatal encounter, Ahab had “cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale…. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down, and then as if his heart had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”*

Rage. The desire for revenge. “Gnawed within and scorched without," Ahab was intent on "an audacious and supernatural revenge." It drove Captain Ahab some said to madness. And surely Herman Melville inhabited a bit of that madness as he penned the novel now considered an American classic.

Not a single reader in 1943 had to scratch his or her head, wondering what motivated the one-legged Captain Ahab to venture back into the sea to hunt down the monster that had torn him asunder. And every…