Moby Dick

How is Starbuck contrasted to Captain Ahab? What do you think is right? Why?

from chapter 5

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Among the characters in Moby Dick, it is only Starbuck who openly opposes Captain Ahab, believing his quest against the great whale to be an impulsive and suicidal folly. He sees things objectively while Ahab sees things through his pent up emotional obsession. However, despite his open misgivings about Ahab and the open hostility between these two characters that culminates when Ahab points his musket at Starbuck, the conflicted Starbuck remains loyal to his captain even when he has the possibility of vanquishing Ahab. If Ahab serves as the protagonist of the novel and Ahab the narrator, Ishmael is the character whom Melville intends as the proxy for the reader: the only character given a gamut of emotions ranging from pity and fear to contempt, Starbuck is Melville's surrogate for an emotional response from his audience. I tend to agree with Starbuck: Ahab seems mentally unstable for much of this story.