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Starbuck, the 30-year-old chief mate, is sober, patient, cautious, religious. Throughout the book he speaks out against Captain Ahab's madness. His practical side makes him understand that the ship's true job is to make a profit for owners and crew; his religious side makes him understand that Ahab's fight against God and nature is blasphemous and doomed. Despite his strengths, Starbuck is helpless in face of the captain. Indeed, Starbuck's very morality prevents him from avoiding death-though he clearly sees that Ahab is leading the Pequod's crew to certain disaster, he is unable to murder the captain.
The second mate, Stubb, contrasts sharply with Starbuck. Good-humored and easy-going, he tries to see everything in a favorable light. He's capable of cleverness and practical jokes, notably when he swindles a French ship, The Rose-Bud, out of its precious cargo of ambergris. Stubb's good humor, however, can be mixed with cruelty and bullying. This side of his personality is evident when he goads Fleece, the cook, into preaching a sermon to the sharks and when he callously abandons Pip, the cabin boy, to the ocean.
Flask, the third mate, is a short, sturdy man, prone to fighting and lacking even a trace of imagination. His nickname, King Post (a wooden block), fully suggests his personality.
Fedallah, Ahab's harpooner, was hidden with his crew for weeks in the Pequod's hold. Fedallah is a Parsee (Parsi), a believer in Zoroastrianism. Melville links this Persian religion to fire-worship. His turbaned figure seems to represent the dark side of Ahab's character, though the crew can't determine whether he controls Ahab or Ahab controls him. It is Fedallah who prophesies the conditions for Ahab's death: that Ahab will see two hearses on the water, one not made by man, the other made of American-grown wood; that Ahab will see Fedallah dead first; and that hemp alone will be the instrument of Ahab's death.
Pip is the young black cabin boy who occasionally entertains the crew with his tambourine. Clever and happy, he is not a good whale hunter, and when circumstances force him to take a position in Stubb's boat, he is so frightened by the whale that he leaps into the sea. The second time he does this Stubb callously abandons him.
The inhuman isolation of the ocean drives Pip mad. But you'll see that it is a madness mixed with wisdom. In his isolation, Pip saw God, though he can't communicate that knowledge to anyone else. Strangely, the person most affected by him is Captain Ahab, who takes pity on the boy, calls him "holiness," and allows him to stay in the captain's cabin. In return, Pip repeatedly warns Ahab not to pursue his course of revenge against the whale. But Ahab ignores the warnings.Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version