Starbuck, the first mate
= Courageous, experienced, intuitive, wise.
= Very brave if needed, and only taking risk after careful calculation.
= Found an interesting analysis on this blog that Starbuck actually represents two figures: Sir Lancelot from the Arthurian legend and Jesus Christ. I think the Christ line is a bit exaggerated, so I'd follow the Arthurian legend, which makes more sense, considering this chapter title.
= I was pondering a lot through the last two paragraphs, and this article enlightened me on some subjects. First: the "valor-ruined man", which means a man with too much courage, who's gone into something foolish.
= This article also mentions the theme of Transcendentalism which is presented in the last paragraph, in Ishmael's soliloquy to "the Spirit of Equality" (=God). So, God here is considered as the center of everything which revolves around Him, and everything is equal to Him. Does this make sense to you? Does transcendentalism place God as our equal? The article also relates this with the Round Table of the Arthurian legend, where everyone round the table is equal. I vaguely understand that in transcendentalism men are equal and independent, and that nature is sacred. But I've thought, by "transcendent", it means that they acknowledge God as their superior, but they just ignore religion practices - or am I just confuse it with Agnostic? Oh.. you got to help me here! :))
"I will have no man in my boat who is not afraid of a whale."
"The most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward."
"This august dignity I treat of, is not the dignity of kings and robes, but that abounding dignity which has no robed investiture."
These three quotes well explained Starbuck character, which I noticed in someone I know - they sometimes seem indecisive in critical moments, but in fact, they are analyzing, weighing facts, past experiences, risks, and results. They might not shining as great men because they don't always rush to fight - at times they'd even withdraw from it - it'a just that they don't want to waste time and energy for only small or moderate results. No, it's not cowardice, I personally call that WISE!
What have Bunyan, Cervantes, and Andrew Jackson got to do with this chapter? Do they represent the "kingly commons" or the trancendentalists?
Chapter 27: Knights and Squires
Stubb, the second mate:
= Careless, take everything easy - even life, which to him is valueless. And he smokes! I can never trust heavy smokers... I believe his indifference (and his pipe.. ) is just his way to counter real fear.
Flask, the third mate:
= Pugnacious and ignorant. He's just what Starbuck refers to with "more dangerous comrade than a coward".
I have made this structure on my first read, so that I don't have to return to this chapter each time I forget who's who.
Melville ended this chapter by pointing out (again) that whaling is a dangerous "life-and-death" occupation, and he alluded to the dark foreshadowing faith of Black Little Pip.
Chapter 28: Ahab
Ahab is the King Arthur of the Pequod.
=Previously enigmatic, now, as Ishmael sees him for the first time, he is "solid, firm, fixed, erect, fearless".
=He has a whitish mark on his face, which added to the formidable appearance of Ahab.
=Ishmael's description of his ivory leg, made of sperm whale's jaw bone, and his erect way of standing on deck at night, nailed his charismatic characteristic forever in literature:
"Upon each side of the Pequod's quarter-deck, and pretty close to the mizen shrouds, there was an auger hole, bored about half an inch or so, into the plank. His bone leg steadied on that hole; one arm elevated, and holding by a shroud."
You know, Ahab's erect posture with fixed sight to the darkness in this image reminded me of Jay Gatsby's stretching hand towards the green light. I just realized that Moby Dick is Gatsby's Daisy to Ahab!
Chapter 29: Enter Ahab; to him, Stubb
Here's one of many Shakesperean theme Melville used for Moby Dick. You can't but imagine chapter 29 and 30 in a staged drama.
=Ahab might appear to be strong and sturdy in posture, but fragile and very unstable mentally.
=His considerate decision in not walking through the plank at night to not waking the crews is but a slight glimpse of his original personality, which, but of a passionate revenge, would make him a great captain.
= Stubb is the first to (though still vaguely) realize the deplorable state of Ahab's mental condition - the early stage of manic madness.
"I don't well know whether to go back and strike him, or - what's that? - down here on my knees and pray for him?"
Chapter 30: The Pipe
Ahab's soliloquy is only highlighted his trouble mind, as Stubb has witnessed in the previous chapter.
"The fire hissed in the waves; the same instant the ship shot by the bubble the sinking pipe made" - was like a foreboding sign of what Ahab's mental instability would do towards Pequod.
Chapter 31: Queen Mab
=Another Shakesperean theme - Queen Mab is the queen of the fairies in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. "She is referred to as the fairies' midwife, who delivers sleeping men of their innermost wishes in the form of dreams." (Britannica). "Queen Mab and her carriage do not merely symbolize the dreams of sleepers, they also symbolize the power of waking fantasies, daydreams, and desires." (Sparknotes)
=Though the one who is dreaming here is Stubb, the allusion of Queen Mab fits with Ahab's desires (and Jay Gatsby, don't you think?)
=About Ahab's kick, I think Stubb is wrong. A kick is a kick, be it from a living leg or an ivory one. It's the intention that counts. It's just Stubb's denial reasoning. I think he's terrified of Ahab, but, just as in Ishmael's denial despite of Elijah's "prophecy", Stubb, unconsciously, tried to shut off his conscience that keeps pointing to the dark evil surrounding his boss.
And so, here I must end. Ere long, we'll get to the one aspect I didn't enjoy from my first read: the lectures! But, I'll brace myself... :)