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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 25: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 26: Day 25: Knights and Squires

“I will have no man in my boat,” said Starbuck, “who is not afraid of a whale.” By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.




After a couple of chapters where Ishmael, first time whaler, says silly things about the virtue of being a whaler, we meet Starbuck. Ish describes Starbuck as a thoughtful man who is, to say the least, dry. In fact, Ish says Starbuck has skin as dry as a “twice-baked biscuit” and was “born in a time of general drought,” and was “thirty arid summers” old. There’s more, but you get it. Starbuck is dry. But, Ish adds, Starbuck is a smart man and does love his family.

Our first impression of the man who will determine how this journey ends, is fascinating. Ish seems to mock the dry character of Starbuck, then says he is intelligent and a good family man, though leaning toward superstition as all seamen do. Starbuck is not a villain or a coward or a hero. He is all of us, which is important in the book.

In the quote from the chapter above, we see an interesting situation set up by Ishmael. Starbuck is smart enough to want men who fear the right things aboard his ship. Recklessness is not what Starbuck is looking for. But soon we will meet the ‘utterly fearless’ Ahab and see what Starbuck does when faced with a truly dangerous man.

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