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Bulkington Character Analysis

The Pequod’s pilot, or steering-man, as it leaves the docks in Nantucket, Bulkington is praised by Ishmael at the beginning of the novel and then forgotten. To Ishmael, Bulkington is a symbol of the many good men whose stories are not told, and who are made to die with the “more famous” or more notable men, like Ahab and Queequeg, who form the basis of the novel.

Bulkington Quotes in Moby-Dick

The Moby-Dick quotes below are all either spoken by Bulkington or refer to Bulkington. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Limits of Knowledge Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Moby-Dick published in 2002.
Chapter 23 Quotes

But as in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God—so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety!

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Bulkington
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

There are numerous interesting plot-threads bound up in this one quotation, itself taken from a very short chapter. Bulkington, as a character, perhaps featured more largely in drafts of the novel, but in the final version, as published, he is almost a stub of a character - a potential for drama never realized. Ishmael does note that Bulkington dies with the rest of the crew of the Pequod. He also notes that Bulkington was a man of adventure, someone ready to take the voyage that might result in his own death.

This is what causes Ishmael to rhapsodize about the nature of chance and risk-taking in a man's life. This aligns with the old adage, that a boat is safe in the harbor, but that boats are made to be taken out into the high seas - toward adventure. If that boat finds its demise there, then that peril was built into the very concept of the boat as a vessel, as a conveyance to another realm. 


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Bulkington Character Timeline in Moby-Dick

The timeline below shows where the character Bulkington appears in Moby-Dick. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 23: The Lee Shore
Limits of Knowledge Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Nature and Man Theme Icon
...that the man at the helm of the Pequod, as it first left shore, was Bulkington, under orders from Starbuck—the same Bulkington who was referred to in adulatory tones in the... (full context)