Consider the meaning of the haunting phrase Starbuck speaks to Ahab. Why does he tell Ahab to "beware of thyself?" What does Ahab have to be afraid of?
Moby Dick Questions
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Moby Dick chapters 106-112, help?
Ahab also realizes that if Starbuck decides to oppose him, Starbuck will succeed because of his strong and solid character. This is because Ahab has been using his position as captain to make the crew support him in his blind obsession to seek revenge. Therefore, Ahab is relieved when he observes that even after the ugly incident in the cabin, Starbuck continues to obey his commands.
The problem reveals a stark contrast between the first mate's and the captain's conceptions of the purpose of the journey. Starbuck wants to fill the hold with oil, protect it, and return home. As he says, "What we come twenty thousand miles to get is worth saving, sir." Ahab responds, "So it is, so it is; if we get it." Starbuck means the oil; Ahab means the White Whale. Starbuck reminds the captain of the owners' interests. Ahab could not care less about the owners. He points a loaded musket toward the first mate and declares, "There is one G-d that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that is lord over the Pequod." Ahab orders Starbuck back on deck. The first mate leaves, saying, "Let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man." Ahab thinks about that and agrees. For whatever reason, he soon goes on deck and commands that the ship must stop for repairs. Ishmael speculates that the captain's action may be a prudent response to Starbuck's dissatisfaction.
Ahab seems relieved when Starbuck obeys his order to return to deck. Obsessed though he is, the captain realizes that he could be accused of usurpation, unlawfully using the ship for his own purposes rather than following the owners' directions. Starbuck, on the other hand, has only two choices. He can go along with the captain's orders or attempt to take over the ship ... a drastic and extremely dangerous option even if he could convince the crew to support him. Justification for mutiny would be hard to prove, and the penalties, if he were found guilty, would be severe. Ahab's decision to repair the casks wisely resolves the situation for the time being.
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