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The Pequod’s three mates are used primarily
to provide philosophical contrasts with Ahab. Starbuck, the first
mate, is a religious man. Sober and conservative, he relies on his
Christian faith to determine his actions and interpretations of
events. Stubb, the second mate, is jolly and cool in moments of
crisis. He has worked in the dangerous occupation of whaling for
so long that the possibility of death has ceased to concern him.
A fatalist, he believes that things happen as they are meant to
and that there is little that he can do about it. Flask simply enjoys
the thrill of the hunt and takes pride in killing whales. He doesn’t
stop to consider consequences at all and is “utterly lost . . .
to all sense of reverence” for the whale. All three of these perspectives
are used to accentuate Ahab’s monomania. Ahab reads his experiences
as the result of a conspiracy against him by some larger force.
Unlike Flask, he thinks and interprets. Unlike Stubb, he believes
that he can alter his world. Unlike Starbuck, he places himself
rather than some external set of principles at the center of the cosmic
order that he discerns.
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