In chapter 36, The Quarter Deck, what character is being indirectly characterized, directly characterized, and who is the archetype?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly a pivotal chapter in Moby Dick, Chapter 36 provides the readers their first insight into Captain Ahab, who reveals to his crew the purpose of the ship's voyage. He immediately takes command of the crew and stirs them by nailing a gold doubloon and offering it as a reward to anyone who sights Moby Dick.

  • Indirect Characterization

Captain Queeg is developed by his speech and actions, a method used in indirect characterization. That Ahab is a meglomanic becomes apparent in his desire to avenge himself against Moby Dick: "That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate...I will wreak that hate upon him."

Much like a high priest, Ahab orders "The measure! The measure!" and has his three mates drink from their harpoons and cross their lances ceremoniously. Then, he has the crew drink in communion for their crusade against what Ahab perceives as a malicious force.

  • Direct Characterization

Tashtego, Daggoo, and Queequeq exemplify direct characterization as the author, Melville, specifically reveals traits about them as they listen to Ahab's malediction:

All this while Tashtego, Daggoo, Queequeq had looked on with even more intense interest and surprise than the rest, and at the mention of the wrinkled brow and crooked jaw [of Moby Dick] *they had started as if each was separately touched by some specific recollections.* (direct char.)

  • Archetype

Starbuck represents the righteous man who struggles against his fate as first mate under a captain who believes that the universe is directed by "an inscrutable malice," a force embodied in Moby Dick. For, as Ahab rails against the white whale, Starbuck murmurs,"God keep me--keep us all." Starbuck keeps quiet against the vociferous Ahab, but his Christian "downcast eyes lighted up with the stubbornness of life."

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Moby Dick

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