Thursday, February 16, 2006

Major Characters

Ishmael: The narrator of the story, Ishmael disappears into his own tale after the first ten or so chapters, popping up periodically to give comments on the text. He is an every man; as such, it is difficult to describe specific things about him. He is a schoolteacher on the land, and has an open mind when it comes to the world around him. Also, he has prodigious knowledge of whaling, which he shares between chapters of plot in the narrative. Ishmael is the only man aboard the Peqoud to survive the novel.

Queequeg: The friendly cannibal Ishmael first meets in the city of New Bedford; they become fast and good friends, despite Queequeg's less than Christian background. Queequeg is an extremely noble, decent man, with an almost child-like wonder at the world; he is willing to put his life in jeopardy to save anyone. He becomes one of the three harpooneers of the Peqoud.

Captain Ahab: Captain of the Peqoud. Ahab is the main focus of Moby Dick. He is a tall, tremendously proud man, in at least his fifties, who lords over his ship like a dark god of vengeance. He has a vivid line, either a birthmark or a scar, which runs the entire length of his body, seemingly splitting him in two. His leg was taking in whaling accident by Moby Dick, and ever since then, he has become obsessed with hunting down the whale and killing it. In his mind, Moby Dick comes to represent all of the injustice in the world. He is the novel's most famous character, and an easily recognizable symbol of monomania. Ahab does have human decency in him, but it is continually driven out to sea by his need for revenge. He is killed when trying to harpoon Moby Dick.

Starbuck: The Chief Mate of the Peqoud. Starbuck is a decent, honorable man. Unlike the rest of the crew, he is not taken in with Ahab's quest, and is continually trying to get the old man to turn home. Starbuck has a wife and son who he misses very much, and fears he will never see again. He is the only man willing to stand up to Ahab, and tell him his true thoughts about Ahab's obsession. Ahab has him stay aboard the Peqoud during the hunt for Moby Dick, in an effort to spare him his life, which, of course, fails.

Stubb: Stubb is the second mate. He is most easily characterized by a free sense of humor; Stubb is able to laugh at everything, up to and including death itself. Unlike Starbuck, he has no fear of mortal danger, and nothing seems to bother him very much. While mending a harness or chasing a whale, his jokes remain constant.

Flask: The third mate of the Peqoud. Flask considers the life of every whale a personal insult, and attacks them with a vengeance. He often plays the straight man to Stubb's outrageous commentary.

Moby-Dick: The whale that gives its name to the title of the book, Moby-Dick hovers outside the entire narrative, occasionally poking his head out in the stories of ships that the Peqoud encounters on her voyage. He is an avenging presence, unable to be killed by human hands, and very likely immortal. He is symbolized as a vengeful God incarnate, only killing when he himself is pursued. There are reports of him taking out entire whaling vessels. He is also called the White Whale.

Fedallah: Also known as the Parsee, Fedallah is the leader of the band of men taken on by Ahab to crew his personal boat. Fedallah does not speak much, but he has an air of mystery about him that keeps him separate from the rest of the crew. He makes a dire prophecy of Ahab's fate, and of his own; he dies before Ahab, which is one of the omens of Ahab's death.


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