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ABSTRACT. Ahab, aka Old Thunder, a veritable vieillard terrible of American literature, is one of the greatest enigmas of the narrative imagination. Melville may even have not been aware how much of the essence of this ominous character in Moby Dick he borrowed into his own life. The present research wishes to take the veil off the mysterious captain of the Pequod – who is a point of convergence of religions and cultures past and present, a genuine vehicle of the clash of civilizations – by exploring a double comparison: Ahab versus Melville, Moby Dick versus Melville’s life, with focus on: the characters gravitating around the Pequod; the “Ahab complex” versus the “Antigone complex”; and the rise and fall of the human ego, as reflected in Ahab’s initiation as master of fire (the Cape Horn episode, so much neglected by criticism, but absolutely crucial for an adequate understanding; and his other “mighty labours”) and the rise of his autotelic selfishness, marked by the “rise of the shark” or primeval “oceanic” instinct, and aggravated by a sparking off of a “Leviathan-” and “Kraken-cycle,” which spiritually are decoded as Ahab’s deeper and deeper megalomania, in the end leading to his utter failure. pp. 133–205

Keywords: demiurge, creation, Cape Horn, master of fire, crippledom, agent of destruction, monomania, revenge

Mihai A. Stroe
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University of Bucharest, Romania

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