Thank you for your generous reply. Yes, Moby Dick is amazing in that way. It contains an infinity, like Finnegans Wake but about a billion times more readable.
Starbuck is a neglected figure in Moby Dick commentary. He is not just the voice of reason: he is the voice of humility. He is, the more I think about it, the only serious Quaker in the bunch. As such, he cannot divine Ahab’s deeper motive. For Ahab the whale is the key to the mystery of human misfortune — a synechdoche, a part of the whole evil mess that stands in for the whole. It’s a “pasteboard mask” that hides something like Schopenhauer’s blind will. But the funny thing is, as the story goes on, Ahab’s role as the noble Promethean avenger turns around. He invokes diabilical powers, he throttle’s St. Elmo’s fire, and, on the last chase, he admits that hate motivates him, not justice — “From hell’s heart I stab at thee! For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee!” Ahab is a Promethean Walter White who “breaks bad.”
Again many thanks!