But, what the character lacks in physical description, he makes up for with a full personality that his described extensively throughout the book. Ishmael is a man who seeks what is best described as inner peace. He is very content with himself when on the water, and has a great love for being a seaman. He joins the crew of the Pequod to satisfy his longing to be back on the ocean, but as it turns out, the particular voyage he is to set out on is not what he had suspected.
For this ship would be commanded by a half-crazed captain in a desperate search for a viscous white whale. Over all, Ishmael is definitely the most civilized and wise man in the story. Captain Ahab is an overwhelmingly intimidating character in the story, and can probably be considered the most deranged of them all. His radical obsession with finding and killing the white whale known as Moby-Dick causes Ishmael and others of the crew to become frightened at his abnormal behavior. Ahabs physical appearance is best described as foreboding and evil. He is a tall man with gray hair, and is missing a leg due to a death-defying confrontation with Moby-Dick himself.
His new artificial leg is made from the bone of whale and once again adds to his intimidating form. His personality is also quite mad. He has a maniacal presence about him and would risk his life and the lives of his crewmen just to fulfill his mission of demented revenge. Melville does a fine job describing this particular character with the utmost extremeness.
The characters of Ishmael and Ahab are two that have a great and critical impact on the book. Ishmaels character allows the reader to relate to a love for nature and the earth, as well as a feeling of inner peace and serenity. While on the other hand, Ahabs character is one of chaos and udder madness. The two characters attitudes, thoughts, and feelings permit the reader to explore two polar opposites of the human personality. Ahabs character is critical to the story element in that without him, the reader could not really experience the insaneness of the voyage and the cruelty of the mission that they have set out to accomplish.
On the other hand, without the character of Ishmael, the reader would not know how to react to Ahab, and furthermore would only be able too experience one side of the voyage. The reader would be unable to relate to Ahabs demented character, and therefore would have no one in the story to relate themselves to. Ishmaels character gives the reader someone to relate to and identify with. All in all, both characters let the reader better understand the story, and allow for an intense reading experience.