Chapter 106, “Ahab’s Leg”
Ahab left the Enderby so quickly, he splintered his ivory leg and has to send for the carpenter to make him another. The false leg has caused him many problems; it wounded him in the groin before the journey and took a long time healing. Ahab feels that woe contains a mystic significance and makes a man akin to the gods.
Chapter 107, “The Carpenter”
The ship’s carpenter can do everything from repairing all mechanical emergencies on the ship to making earrings and false teeth. He is talented but seems to have very little personality; his brains are in his hands. He works by instinct and is like “an unreasoning wheel” (107. 463).
Chapter 108, “Ahab and the Carpenter”
We get a contrast of the carpenter’s inner thoughts and Ahab’s thoughts as the leg is being repaired, neither of them speaking aloud. The carpenter’s thoughts are mundane and about the job he is doing. Ahab’s, as usual, are philosophic. He compares the carpenter to Prometheus, the divine maker of men. He thinks he will order a whole new form fifty feet high, with no heart.
Analysis Chapters 106, 107, and 108
Ahab’s wound in the groin and thoughts of being akin to the gods reminds one of the myth of the Fisher King, the wounded king whose sterility brings destruction to his whole kingdom.
Ishmael comments that there is a strange contradiction in the fact that man in the abstract is a wonder but man in the mass is ordinary and “a mob of unnecessary duplicates” (107. 461). This is illustrated by the scene with Ahab and the carpenter, two types of men, the unthinking automaton, and the godlike hero. What could they have in common?
Ahab feels humiliated that he is as proud as a Greek god and yet must be dependent on the carpenter for help: “Cursed be that mortal inter-debtedness“ (108. 467). By contrast, we see Ishmael’s frequent celebrations of democracy and brotherhood.