“All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks” (Moby-Dick)

Hark ye yet again—the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ’tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines.

From Chapter 36 of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. The speaker, of course, is Ahab.


5 thoughts on ““All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks” (Moby-Dick)”

  1. “Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”

    I remember this being one of my favorite lines when I first read the book. Badass.


  2. you give meaning to the mask by providing the meaning with a reason, which explains the mask
    know when you speak, you speak to someone else
    the mere pasteboard mask is moulded by any reason of choice(interest/benefit)
    you can make any mask you like, given you are able to come up with an explanation
    giving any appropriate reason to uphold the meaning given
    make what you want, when you know how to outsmart the one spoken to
    give a certain meaning to a thing, a meaning that fits you to obtain that what you desire
    and come up with an explenation that will be bought by anybody
    in the end.. what do they know.. you just make it look like you DO know and its all fine
    its the apocalypse in my book, its this age


  3. The Pasteboard Masks are the duality of human kind. Humanity lives in and out of nature. This is paradoxical, impossible and unknowable but we do it anyway. To go from one to the other, to abrogate, to undo, to transcend the Pasteboard Masks, therein lies chaos, evil, insanity, eternity, the universe.


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