One of my very favourite things about Moby Dick is the Starbuck-Ahab relationship. He doesn't flat-out hate him but is strangely drawn to him and cannot break free from his ties to him. There's a beautiful bit near the end of Moby Dick where he says it is not too late and begs him not to go out to chase the whale any longer. I wanted to write something based on that, and Starbuck's mixed feelings towards Ahab. Ahab/Starbuck if you step back five paces, turn off the light and squint.
He watched the great white whale slice through the water towards him and he wanted so desperately to finally act as the brave hero but he was so very frightened. His heart was thumping painfully in his ears and he could no longer breathe, as if already drowning, but he tried to keep it locked inside. He could hear, in the far distance, the sounds of the panicked, remaining crew, running about the ship, but still, he sat upon the bowsprit and did nothing but watch.
He had been doing nothing but this for the whole voyage. It seemed fitting that he would now die like this. Deep inside, he knew he could have prevented it. Ahab was out there, wild in the near grasp of what would be a fruitless hunt, and he could have stopped him so long ago. He could have saved him. He could have saved them all.
It was a strangely beautiful day. He wished he could say it reminded him of Mary and his children but he could not recall their faces anymore. They had become but a memory, an idea that he clung to. Maybe it was for the best that he couldn't remember them. It might be harder to go to his death if he saw every single detail of his life before. All he knew now was around him, within the doomed ship and out on the horizon on a tiny boat in this godforsaken part of the world.
But this whale would not truly be the death of them. He was but a brute, acting in justified defence. Ahab had driven them here in his lusty quest, a man possessed with such a terrible obsession. They were to suffer at his hand. It was the price of their loyalty. He had known it since the beginning. He could have saved him. He could have saved them all.
Stubb was still merry, even in this crazed calamity, and Flask and he were saying something about cherries. He could barely hear them anymore, barely understood anything anymore He already felt numb. Maybe if he just slipped off the bowsprit and into the water below, he could end it all quicker. But no – he would go down with the ship. With Ahab's ship.
The whale would soon strike them. He was close enough now for Starbuck to see the strange human quality in his eyes. He was no devil. Aside from his stark whiteness and monstrous size, he was no different from the creatures they had been hunting and hanging from the ship for this whole journey.
Oh! he thought. How I wish it could be as simple as that. How I wish death could have come from what God called on me to make my living from. This is not it. This is my punishment. Now I will die for Ahab. Oh, my Captain –
''Mr Starbuck?'' said an almost ethereal voice. But he shook his head.
''Let him come.''
The last thing he saw was Ahab in that tiny boat, standing and watching, just a silhouette against the sun. He looked at him across the distance and hoped he saw every detail as Moby Dick collided with the starboard bow, sending the ship to a watery doom. Even as he drew his last breath, he hoped he ran. If he could not save them all, he hoped that, in his death, he could finally save him.