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Moby Dick - Human Nature

Uploaded by kimchimonster on Nov 19, 2001

In Moby Dick, Herman Melville makes use of two climactic scenes of the book to underline a profound and intellectual commentary on human nature. The chapters entitled “The Musket” and “The Symphony” are two such climactic scenes in which Starbuck and Ahab reveal a critical attribute of man’s temperament. Melville uses these two characters to emphasize that man is unchanging, and in this way their moral fiber unconsciously weaves their fate.

In “The Musket,” the Pequod and it’s crew have passed the disastrous typhoon to find smooth sailing as well as a last chance for Starbuck to make one of the most consequential decisions of Moby Dick. Although the rest of the crew celebrate what they believe is the inaccuracy of the sea’s omens, Starbuck still stands in indecision. He enters Ahab’s cabin to tell the captain of the changed weather. In front of him is a rack of muskets, one of which was pointed at Starbuck earlier, as his mind struggles with the ultimate question of whether he will save the ship and the crew’s lives by killing his mad Captain, or allow Ahab’s insanity to bring them to a watery death. Looking at his decision in an abstract sense, Starbuck’s current position resembles that of the “lee shore” and the “insular Tahiti” in that he wishes to return to the hearth and home of land. Starbuck is aware that he is trapped in the middle of the chaotic sea and far away from the order of land when he says, “The land is hundreds of leagues away…I stand here alone here upon an open sea, with two oceans and a whole continent between me and the law.” Starbuck is undoubtedly one of the noblest characters of the crew, and the only one with the will or ability to stop Ahab. However, earlier in the novel Ishmael says of Starbuck, that his courage could withstand “winds or whales or any of the ordinary irrational horrors of the world," but not the crazed mind of "an enraged and mighty man." This is a permanent quality of Starbuck’s character and evidently one of the strong threads that composes his fate. "Shall I? Shall I?" he asks himself, but his tragic flaw of weakness and morality eventually forces him to “place the death-tube in its rack” and abandon his chance to save the crew. “The Musket” ultimately portrays the inability of man to...

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Uploaded by:   kimchimonster

Date:   11/19/2001

Category:   Literature

Length:   4 pages (882 words)

Views:   2012

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