Lecture Outline

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I. The Characters

A. STARBUCK: Obedient and competent first mate. Willing to do the bidding of the administration without question. Open to taking a fall. A good man to have around. Experiences some bitterness toward the end of his tour, but unflinchingly performs duty to the end.

B. STUBB: A veteran of his profession, the second mate remains unaffected during times of extreme stress. Some say he fails to grasp the gravity of desperate situations and relies too heavily on an escapist sense of humor. Though he can unleash a cruel tongue at times, history will show that he is the greatest second mate in the history of whaling.

C. FLASK: Simple-minded and passionate third mate. Though he’s never thrown a harpoon, Flask enjoys commanding the charge. He’s often seen running up and down the side deck in search of his beloved flying sea cucumbers. His confused rhetoric, liberal doses of noontime grog, and premature pronouncements of victory on the poop deck are liabilities, but he sticks to his convictions, and middle-Nantucket whaling folk respect that.

D. AHAB: Fearless and visionary captain. Not often seen above deck, this mastermind re-engineers the way ships and whaling expeditions will be run forever. A lifelong servant to the larger whaling syndicate, Ahab takes it upon himself to make the oceans safer by ridding the world of its ultimate evildoer (with whom he had an earlier, prematurely concluded skirmish). Pursues WMD around the globe, while managing an ungrateful and mutinous crew, and without the slightest convenience or emergency medical device from home. Incredible.

E. ISHMAEL: Indecisive intellectual who is afraid to commit to the job at hand. Full of wishy-washy apprehensions and reflective moments of insight. Bi-curious episode in Nantucket with large ethnic friend all but confirmed. A true weak link. Luckily, Ishmael has been stripped of any power and is too timid to voice complaint. A true captain would hang this insurgent from the yardarm, but, as usual, this would cause Flask to lose his standing with the men. Luckily, a ship in international waters is not under standard legal constraints and Ishmael can be placed in the hold, where buckets of water are dumped on his head in an unrelenting fashion.

II. Historical Background

A. Moby-Dick, whale of mass destruction, swimming through the seas unchecked, consorting with reefs, hurricanes, and any number of cataloged hazards to navigation. WMD has rebuked international whale inspectors for years.

B. A tyrant to his own race, WMD perpetrates indiscriminate crimes upon all factions of sperm whales.

C. Held alleged meeting in 1836 with the iceberg that went on to sink the steamship Lady of the Lake. There were, of course, no survivors.

D. WMD now actively pursuing a rare uranium-capping treatment in Africa for his 80 teeth in order to deliver a “dirty bite” to vessels engaged in the whaling trade. (HIGHLIGHT THIS POINT in your notes.)

E. Recruited a large number of sharks to serve as mobile weapons labs to disperse large amounts of concentrated jellyfish poison. Intelligence estimates put the amount at 5 billion tons of jellyfish juice per shark.

F. Bottom line: This whale is really giving people the runaround.

III. Plot

A. With the support of a secretive and religious minority, the fearless Ahab rises to power (refer to above character description) and vows to rid the world of WMD, thus bringing peace and democracy to the world’s oceans. Some speculate that he is hell-bent on eliminating WMD in order to procure massive amounts of whale oil. This impression is not helped by Ahab’s disregard for criticism voiced by fellow whaling captains. Theory soundly debunked (KEY POINT) by Ahab’s many moving speeches discussing the larger goal of liberating all whales and fish and creating a free and democratic undersea nation.

B. Ahab is at first successful in raising support for the effort by nailing a large ransom sum to the mast and distributing playing cards depicting the most grievous of spermaceti offenders. The hard-driving dedication of Ahab’s quest unfortunately proves too much for the crew, and their lack of support and premonitions of disaster ultimately doom the mission to failure.

C. (IMPORTANT: Guaranteed to show up on the midterm!) Had he been given supreme executive command and been able to shed the shackles of merchant maritime law, Ahab certainly would have destroyed WMD.