Character Analysis Starbuck


The first mate is the only man aboard the Pequod who resists Ahab's plan to devote the ship's mission to hunting and killing the White Whale. Starbuck contrasts with Ahab in his spirit and manner. Where Ahab is bombastic, outrageous, and monomaniac, Starbuck is prudent, calm, and reasonable. But he lacks Ahab's power. The chief mate argues that the ship's mission, as prescribed by the owners, is to harvest as much whale oil as possible and return home safely, showing a profit. He feels it is "blasphemous" to be enraged by a dumb object of nature such as a whale, and he realizes that the lives of all aboard are at serious risk. At one point (Chapter 123), Starbuck even considers shooting the captain to end the madness. Ultimately, however, Starbuck acquiesces. He concedes that he is no match for the enormity of the charismatic captain's spirit. Even though he is certain that Ahab is mad, Starbuck cannot take the action necessary to stop him. Perhaps he is too moral to kill or feels bound to a higher duty. At any rate, the first mate obeys orders. As a character, he changes only because he submits to Ahab.