Ahab's Fable

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Ahab's Fable

Allie Eiselen

Ahab's Fable

Janie rolled forward and back in the big wooden rocker on the store porch. She was re-reading Moby Dick. Although Janie had never seen a New England winter, she now knew what Ishmael meant when he said he felt a damp, drizzly November in his soul. That mule had gone and died and Jody had left her sittin' there alone to mind the store. A feeling of coldness and fear took hold of her. She felt far away from her great leaf trees, far away from things and lonely. It wasn't just being left out of the funeral that made her feel this way though; Janie felt like an outsider in Eatonville and the more she obeyed Jody's orders to act like Mrs. Mayor, the more she felt like an outsider in herself. Jody was aimed at changin' the whole Negro town and her too.

Although Jody hadn't lost his leg to no white whale, he had lost his manhood and dignity to the white folk who had taken, or rather prevented him from having, generations of freedom and pride. Janie knew that building-up Eatonville and having a big voice everyone listened to was Jody's way of asserting power and vengeance over the white men who kept him down on the inside. And like that crazy Captain Ahab, Jody was on a mission to hunt down his soul and make himself a whole man again. She knew that when Jody made her tie up all her thoughts and dreams with her hair and stay quiet and
workin' the store, he wasn't acting no better than a slave owner his self. In this way Janie could see in Jody Starks the selfishness she hated in Captain Ahab, considering the way he'd done and taken all their lives to the bottom of the ocean.

Before Ahab ever hobbled on deck, his name was powerful and his description surrounded by intrigue, fear, and respect. There was something about Joe Starks that cowed the town in the same way that Captain Ahab cowed the Pequod's crew. It was not because of physical fear. He was no fist fighter. His bulk was not even imposing as men go. Neither was it because he was more literate than the rest. Something else made men give way before him. He had a bow-down command in his face, and every step he took made the things more tangible.

Buying the mule to was a way for Jody to show everyone he had the power to grant freedom them all, to prevent them from being beaten. It was also a way for Jody to feel like he was buying his own freedom. At the funeral Jody soaked up even more praise and power from the Eatonville folk as they awed at the grandeur of his pomp and circumstance for a common work mule. Crazy as he was, that captain Ahab had a way of making a hard and dirty job have a noble cause and his followers praiseworthy and courageous. Janie thought that maybe Jody Starks was gathering respect and a following in the same way that Ahab could instill in his crew his hatred of the white whale and keep them goal driven and away from mutiny.

Despite their leadership, Jody and Ahab they was ignorant of the same thing. Neither knew that freedom was something internal. Something found deep inside the soul. And no ol' dead mule nor big white whale could take the place of facing reality and staring truth square in the face. Janie knew that no matter how many mules Jody bought or how big of a house he was living in, he would still be shackled to his insecurities.

The sun hung low in the summer sky. There hadn't been a customer since noon. Everyone was at the funeral and Jody knew it too. He had kept Janie there because looking into the beauty of her eyes reminded him of his dreams on the backburner.

While thinking of how Jody had tied himself down to Eatonville rather than follow his heart to achieve greatness and explore the world around him, Janie took notice that she was still following her captain's orders to stay and mind the store. Why should she after all? Here she was a grown and literate woman, and she was hiding her thoughts and herself, just rocking away her time on the porch. She didn't need the clothes or the house or the store to be happy. Janie hadn't been happy for a long time. She wasn't happy following the orders of her mammy, she wasn't happy following the orders of Logan, and she certainly wasn't happy following the orders of Jody at all. In fact, Janie didn't even know if Jody was happy having everyone follow his orders, because maybe Jody knew that his grandiose orders was wrong.

What is the point of living if only to sail in the winds of another man's dreams? Janie knew the sad truth about what would happen to Jody and the people who obeyed him. They were being blown about by white man's glory. They would be just as sad and broken as before they had a general store or white picket fences because the possessions they had on the outside, wasn't doin' noting to change their souls on the insides.

By the sight of vultures circling in the distance, Janie supposed that funeral was near its end, but she wasn't. Janie wasn't about to wear out the groves of her spirit in
that porch or ever allow herself to be Jody's mule again. The man himself must make his own emancipation and the woman too! Janie was determined not to be like Starbuck who saw the truth and turned his head. She believed that there are two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin' fuh theyselves.

Whether or not the rest of Eatonville worshiped Jody, Janie refused to allow him to keep her chained or to allow him to have the satisfaction of knowing he had power to unlock her either. Janie set down the volume, lifted herself up out of the rocker, and she pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.

Janie untied her kerchief and felt as if a weight had been lifted. While shaking out her long hair, a young man's whistling caught her attention. She defiantly stepped off the porch to introduce herself to the stranger. Being that he didn't want to be overly heightened by the name Mr. Woods, he told her to call him Tea Cake.

Works cited:
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neal Hurston
Moby Dick, Herman Melville

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