(Great Characters in Literature)

Characters Discussed

Frank T. Bullen

Frank T. Bullen, a British seaman, eighteen years old. He has sailed from London frequently. He ships out from New Bedford, Massachusetts, on the whaler Cachalot, for his first American sea experience. He is intelligent and is the only crew member to bring reading material aboard. He also is levelheaded and pragmatic, aware that his chosen occupation will never make him rich; he is nevertheless eager to steep himself in what he loves, the sea and whaling. A naturally curious person, quick to comply with regulations, he surprises the crew early on by catching a 5-foot, 35-pound fish. Along the cruise, he sights and hauls in a number of whales, lives through ravaging sea storms and infuriating calms, is horrified by the sighting of a Malay prahu with thirteen corpses aboard, and delights in viewing ocean phosphorescence and a “milk” sea. Reverent and temperate, he is a solid crew hand. He survives a harrowing ride on the back of a whale after his whaleboat is destroyed. His wonder at and appreciation of creatures of the deep and of the sea itself are evident in the quality and quantity of the extended descriptions and detail. He becomes fourth mate when Mr. Jones dies and thus is the captain’s harpooner, the promotion increasing his pay by a third.

Mr. Jones

Mr. Jones, the fourth mate, a huge black man who becomes Bullen’s friend and whom Bullen nicknames “Goliath.” A “pure African,” he was enslaved with his mother as a child; she escaped into Liberia. She was a powerful Obeah-woman who prophesied that her son would die suddenly and violently at the hand of a white man who would die at his hand. Gracious and communicative, Jones instructs Bullen in the natural history of whales and nurtures an uneasy relationship with the skipper. Jones and the skipper come to blows in a nasty struggle in which they are cast overboard in the Sea of Okhotsk, in the North Pacific; they drown, and...

(The entire section is 815 words.)