Notes on Characters from Moby Dick

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Moby Dick 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 Pequod 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 Pequod.

Captain Ahab: Captain of the Pequod. 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 Pequod. 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 Pequod 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 Pequod. 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 Pequod 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.

Minor Characters

Peter Coffin: The landlord of the Spouter-Inn.

Bulkington: A sailor that Ishmael first meets in the Spouting-Inn, and later sees on the deck of the Pequod. His character is unknown, but he holds himself apart from the other men when Ishmael first sees him.

Father Mapple: The head of the Whaleman's Chapel in Nantucket. He delivers a sermon on Jonah, and speaks of the dangers of sin.

Captain Peleg: A stiffly religious man, a Quaker. The other owner of the Pequod.

Captain Bildad: A boisterous, swearing man, one of the two owners of the Pequod. He helps guide the ship out of port, and plays 'good cop' to his partner, Captain Peleg.

Elijah: A sort of bum prophet that Ishmael and Queequeg meet before getting aboard the Pequod. He has dire warnings about the future of the voyage, all of which come true.

Aunt Charity: Bildad's sister, who helps get the ship ready to sail. She also tries to prohibit the men from drinking on the ship, which is quickly thrown over. One of the only two women in the novel.

Tashtego: A proud Indian from an island off Nantucket. One of the three harpooneers of the Pequod.

Daggoo: A coal black negro-savage. One of the three harpooneers of the Pequod.

Dough-boy: The ship's black steward.

Pip: A fun-loving, intelligent young black boy who falls over the side during a whale hunt, and goes insane before he can be picked up again. Like Lear's Fool, he provides a counterpoint to Ahab's driven madness; Ahab takes pity on him after he goes mad, and has Pip stay below in Ahab's cabin.

Radney: The mate of the Town-Ho, a cowardly fellow who is killed by Moby-Dick, perhaps in retaliation for flogging Steelkit.

Steelkit: Steelkit, one of the sailors of the Town-Ho. He is a noble, proud man, driven to rebellion by the ignorance of Radney.

Fleece: The Pequod's cook, who delivers a humorous sermon to sharks about not eating so loudly.

Derrick De Deer: The Captain of the Jungfrau; he comes to the Pequod to beg for some oil, then tries to out race them in pursuit of a whale.

Gabriel: A madman from the Jeroboam, who believes he carries vials sealed by the angels. He warns his captain, and Ahab, not to go after Moby-Dick, who he believes to be the Quaker god incarnate.

Captain Boomer: The Captain of the Samuel Enderby, who lost an arm to Moby Dick.

The Carpenter: The carpenter of the Pequod, who isn't extremely intelligent. He serves as an amusing foil for some of Ahab's rants. He is also an extremely hard worker.

Perth: The blacksmith of the Pequod, who lost his family after a robbery; he helps Ahab make his harpoon.

Manxman: The oldest sailor aboard the Pequod, who passes occasional words of wisdom.

Mrs. Hussey: The wife of the landlord of the inn Ishmael and Queequeg stay in Nantucket; she runs the place while her husband is away. She is one of two women in the novel.

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