Describe the major conflict in the story of Moby Dick. Who is the protagonist? Who is the antagonist?

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The main conflict of the story is Captain Ahab's hunt for the whale Moby Dick. A conflict is what causes tension in a story, and Ahab's hunt causes this tension for himself and for the rest of the crew.

The most obvious protagonist is Ishmael, since he is the narrator and the character the narrative follows; however, one could also argue that the protagonist is Ahab. Based on this interpretation of the story, the antagonist would be the whale. The whale poses the obstacle that Ahab must overcome to achieve his goal of revenge.

However, one could make the argument that Ahab is the antagonist. This is because he is willing to put other men at risk in order to take his personal revenge on the whale. In this case, Starbuck or the whale could be considered protagonists, since they are the beings who oppose Ahab.

This question is not straightforward, because Ahab is not a traditional hero. He selfishly puts the crew of his ship, including Ishmael, in danger to find revenge. This is neither noble nor self-sacrificing. Determining Moby Dick's protagonist and antagonist depends on the reader's definition of a hero.

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The major conflict is Ahab's quest to destroy the whale, Moby Dick. This could be considered as man vs. nature or man vs. the unknown. Moby Dick represents evil incarnate to Ahab, the devil. Ahab is obsessed with killing the whale as its punishment for taking his leg. He's willing to risk his life and the lives of his crew to get his revenge. Starbuck, the first mate, tries to discourage Ahab from this suicidal voyage several times, but Ahab cannot be deterred from getting his vengeance.

Some critics disagree regarding which characters are the protagonist and the antagonist. Most see Ahab as the protagonist, and Moby Dick as the non-human antagonist. I tend to agree with this view, as Moby Dick, the symbol of evil in the world to Ahab, is the force that Ahab is fighting against. Other critics say that Starbuck is Ahab's antagonist because he attempts to dissuade Ahab from continuing the voyage to kill Moby Dick.

For a more detailed explanation of this novel and its characters, go to the link below.

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