Starbuck-Preserving In Melville's Moby Dick

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Since the inception of the Greek word “Tragedy,” authors use the fall of grace to interpret our existence and caution readers against the many pitfalls of life. In Melville’s Moby Dick, the first mate Starbuck’s decision to spare the infamous Ahab’s life due to his moral conscious culminates in the eventual demise of the crew. Many see this act as a self-preserving one and therefore a loss of his uprightness.. Despite the unfortunate demise of the Pequod that can be indirectly attributed to Starbuck’s self preserving nature, seeing both the knowledge the first mate possessed at the time and also the underlying motives behind the decision it is clear that Starbuck’s decision was a morally upright one. There is no denying the consequences that…show more content…
Starbuck was not oblivious to Ahab’s insanity by any means. He states while contemplating, “and come to deadly harm, my soul swears the ship will, if Ahab has his way” (Melville, 526). Starbuck was well aware that only “deadly harm” lain in following Ahab’s path, and yet he still let him live. After coming to the conclusion that he could save many by killing Ahab in his sleep, he immediately worries about what will happen to him in terms of murder. He says, “But is there no other way? No lawful way” (Melville, 526)? The consequences are clear, but all he is able to think of is a way that is “lawful”. The first mate eventually reveals his primary reluctance to killing Ahab is due to his worry about being responsible to God. He considers, “Is Heaven a murderer when its lightning strikes a would-be murderer I his bed? […] Would I be a murderer then” (Melville, 527)? Instead of realizing the ramifications of letting Ahab live, he only sees the possibility of God's condemnation. All of his stated motives are for his own salvation rather than the entire…show more content…
The crew completely invested themselves into Ahab’s dream, that it would not have done any good to kill the captain. When pursuing the whale, “They were one man, not thirty. […] And were all directed to that fatal goal which Ahab their one lord and keel did point to” (Melville, 567). Completely brainwashed and devoted to Ahab, the crew would have killed Starbuck and still met their end by going after Moby Dick. Although Starbuck could guess at the fate of the Pequod, there was much information missing at the time of the decision that would have more definitely pointed to the end game, and we cannot judge Starbuck with the privilege of hindsight. Upon meeting the Delight, “I bury but one of five stout men, who were alive only yesterday; but were dead ere night” (Melville, 551). In addition, upon hearing of the missing boat of the Rachel, “Yet not the least glimpse of the missing keel had been seen” (Melville, 541). All of these first hand encounters with death by Moby Dick had not yet occurred, and it is not just to call a man selfish for sparing another’s life without any tangible evidence to end

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