The Try-Works [B-Block]

B-Block

“The Try-Works” is an incredibly evocative chapter of Melville’s classic Moby-Dick, and as such it is worthy of further examination. Now that you’ve re-read the chapter on your own, you are prepared to unearth some of its more hidden implications!

Click the link and follow the instructions!

THE TASK: Respond to the following prompts by using the “Leave a Reply” feature at the bottom of the page. As these responses will be used by the class to facilitate an examination of “The Try-Works,” make sure you go into as much detail as possible. Remember – with only a single chapter at hand, depth of analysis is key!

PROMPTS
A) Record a quotation from the chapter that you find interesting, confusing, or otherwise thought-provoking.

B) Provide commentary for why you find your quotation of choice so intriguing. Does the diction employed create a particular mood? Is there any distinct imagery used? Are characters developed within the excerpt? Make sure to cite specific moments within the quotation.

C) Write at least two questions inspired by a (re)reading of “The Try-Works.” Your questions can pertain to the chapter, the novel as a whole, or even something beyond the literary realm. 

13 thoughts on “The Try-Works [B-Block]

  1. A) “Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia’s Dismal Swamp, nor Rome’s accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this earth. So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true—not true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe.”

    B) Ishmael is stating that the sun, the happiness, cannot not hid the sorrow of a man. Having sorrow is very okay and very normal. He is reassuring himself that tomorrow the sun will shine again and make everything seem less scary. He is concerned when his day dream almost makes him capsize the boat. I find it intriguing that Ishmael is trying to make himself feel better about the situation but yet he accepts and understands that its okay to feel concerned and frightened. The imagery used is so vivid, he uses real places such as Virginia’s Dismal Swamp, Rome’s accursed Campagna, the Sahara, the moon, the earth, and the ocean. Through this excerpt we can see that some things about this boat such as some effects of the “try-works” , like the smoke, make Ishmael uncomfortable and cause him to day dream. He has to make himself relaxed by reassuring himself that in the morning it will all be over and okay. Personally I believe we learn he is a smart understanding man who knows the way the world works. He knows you can not have true happiness without sorrow here and there.

    C)
    1) What truly makes Ishmael go into such a deep deep dream, so much that he doesn’t know what he is doing when he is holding onto the till?

    2)How does Ishmael truly feel about the process of the “try-work”? Is it something that disturbs him, or interests him?

  2. A)”There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces”.

    B) I really liked this quote while re- reading this chapter. It stood out to me because I had to stop and re read it a few times. It is very thought provoking as well as confusing when we read it. The quote is very dark yet almost inspirational. To me the second part is saying that we can take the good out of the evil. We may go into something awful and terrible but we overcome the madness and return with a new wisdom. Not only can we take the good from the bad, we can learn from this. It is confusing to read because there are multiple objects being compared with one another in this quote so you have to read a section at a time in order to really grasp the true idea of it. The mood that is creates is very dark because it makes you think of life. There are no certain characters introduced in the quotation but it brings up an eagle. There is a great use of imagery in this one quotation. It draws a picture of the eagle diving into the gorges and soaring out into the sun.

    C)1. Why does Ismael talk about the try works wood and strength so in depth? What is he getting at?
    2. Why does he bring up fire so much in this chapter as well as others?
    3. Why does he use so many biblical/ historical references in each chapter? (He mentions Solomon is this chapter)

  3. A. ” as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully chapped the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freight ended with savages and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into the blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul” ( pg 491)
    B. I found this quote particularly intriguing because Captain Ahab is being described in a new way, specifically by being compared to the Pequod. I think the section of the chapter creates a more dramatic, angry, and intimidating mood. It is clear that the fire blazing from the ship into the darkness can be compared to Ahab’s harsh and obsessed soul. ” Monomaniac” is used to describe Ahab and his crazed need for vengeance. The section further develops the Capatin by comparing him to the Pequod. The whole quote uses personification to describe the different aspects of the sea and the ship. The description of the Pequot creates a sense do urgency similar to Ahab’s need to find Moby Dick.
    C. Did Ishmael subconsciously turn the direction of the boat for a reason that he won’t say but is thinking? Is Ishmael intrigued or scared of the try pots?

  4. “There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.”

    There is something about this emotionally charged excerpt which really caught my attention. The metaphor takes a fairly complex idea and, by comparing it to something in nature, simplifies it. The narrator clearly explains to the reader that there is a certain kind of despair that can make one wise, but there is also a kind of despair that can drive one crazy. Some of us (represented by the eagle) can delve deep down into the barren depths of our minds and souls (the “blackest gorges”) and come out self-aware (“invisible in the sunny spaces”). And even if we never make it out of the deep parts of ourselves (“for ever fl[ying] within the gorge”), we are still ourselves (“still higher than the other birds [who soar]”). This excerpt speaks volumes about Ishmael as a character, and how he views himself. Ishmael sees himself as one of the birds in the sunny spaces: someone who has grown self-aware. This, consequently, makes us wonder who the other birds represent in his philosophical metaphor. Who does Ishmael view as the eagle who “flies for ever within the gorge”? Who does Ishmael view as the “other birds upon the plain”?

  5. A) “And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoon the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.”
    B) For this particular quote, I think that it is very intriguing because of how the quote was written and what it is trying to say. This quote is one that would make you think about the meaning of it. I inferred that this quote was saying that even though some have their bad days, they are still going to be better that a lot of things. It is almost saying that even though somebody is at their worst, it is still better than anyone else, even if that someone else is doing really well. It almost is a symbol for how great someone is, or if someone had a lot of power, such as Ahab.
    C) Is Ishmael talking about Ahab in this quote, or is he just speaking of everyone as a whole that are on the Pequod? Do you think that it was strange the Ishmael first was talking about the Try Works, but then somehow got onto the topic of talking about how great Ahab was, and the amount of potential he has?

  6. A) “By midnight the works were in full operation. We were clear from the carcass; sail had been made; the wind was freshening; the wild ocean darkness was intense. But that darkness was licked up by the fierce flames, which at intervals forked forth from the sooty flues, and illuminated every lofty rope in the rigging, as with the famed Greek fire. The burning ship drove on, as if remorselessly commissioned to some vengeful deed” (490).

    B) The quotation is intriguing to me because the narrator describes this location where whales are boiled down for ship fuel. Life on the ship never seems to die down, as even when “the darkness was intense” the ship still pressed on with the darkness being “licked up by the fierce flames.” Also, I feel like whales in the try-works, to the shipmates, are seen only as light sources. I feel like there is a lack of respect for the whale. The last sentence of the quotation makes it seem like the ship doesn’t care about what they’re doing; they’ll do things will no regret. The people on the ship are described as “tawny features…begrimed with smoke and sweat…and the contrasting barbaric brilliancy of their teeth” (491) later on in the chapter; all of these qualities are “revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works” (491). These qualities paint a picture of the barbaric nature on board the ship.

    C) How are the many Bible and Bible references used throughout Moby Dick?
    Why didn’t Ahab give up chasing Moby Dick after hearing the prophecies made by Fedallah and after his ships got destroyed by the whale? I feel like Ahab knew he couldn’t beat Moby Dick, so why does he continue to chase?

  7. A) “The burning ship drove on, as if remorselessly commissioned to some vengeful deed” (pg. 408).
    B) While re- reading this chapter, this quotation really got my attention. It stood out to me how deranged and mind set Ahab was for getting the Pequod on its journey. The descriptive language used in the text helps to set the stage for how intense the trip was made out to be. The quote really made me think about what was happening. Initially, I thought the boat was actually on fire, until I re- read it and understood the text. This quote intensified Ahab’s anger and determination for the revenge-set journey. The way it so deeply describes the fire burning on the ship, and how they continue on, just creates an iry mood. The mood is dark. I think of Ahab and his anger towards Moby Dick, and this quote makes me picture him deranged leading the crew on to their deaths.
    C) 1. What is Ishmael attempting to get at by using such grand detail while describing the try works wood?
    2. What is the reasoning behind the reoccurring mention of fire in this chapter?

  8. 1) A quotation that I thought was interesting was “but that night, in a particular, strange (ever since inexplicable) thing occurred to me. Starting from a brief standing sleep, I was horribly conscious of something fatally wrong. The jaw-bone stiller smote my side, which leaned against it; in my ears was the low hum of sails, just beginning to shake in the wind; I thought my eyes were open; I was half conscious of putting my fingers to the lids and mechanically stretching them until further apart.”

    2) I thought this quote was interesting because you can see how Ishmael’s dreams were affected while on board the Pequod. This quote was also slightly confusing because although it is clear that Ishmael is dreaming, it is difficult to determine what exactly his dreams are about.

    3) Why did Ishmael associate the try works with darkness and evil? Did the loss of Ahab’s leg cause him to become paranoid about everything being “evil” instead of it just being a risk of his career?

  9. Chaper 96 (The try-works)
    A)”…and their uncivilized laughter forked upward out of them, like the flames from the furnace…the harpooners wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages and laden with fire, and a burning corpse,and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul.”

    B)This quote gives a new view on the Pequod and the journey. It gives off a new mood of it and it shows a new darkness. It gives the reader insight to how the try works give off this evil mood in the story. The way they describe the journey and the boat is not the way it has been. The ship becomes an evil image and comes to life the way Ishmael is describing it. The Pequod turns into a boat with savages for sailers and violently taking on the sea in the nighttime. This quote pulls the reader in to try and learn more about why the thought has shifted so dramatically. The chapter has a new image. “…and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night…” This specific area gives details of the Pequod being a rough ship sailing in the darkness of night and continuing her journey as she is projecting herself forward with no hesitation.

    C)In this chapter I would have liked to know more about why the try works are in association with evil that is decribed. Ishmael autommatically links the two together and I would have liked to read more about why that is. Another question I had was what happened to Ishmael at the end. He begins to get confused and says there is no compass for him to steer, which was not explainied far out. This was just said and then left there, it was never in full detail during the chapter.

  10. A.) As they narrated to each other their unholy adventures, their tales of terror told in words of mirth; as their uncivilized laughter forked upwards out of them, like the flames from the furnace, as to and fro, in their front, the harpooners wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and a burning corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul. (Pg 439-440)

    B.) I find this quote so intriguing because its word choice creates such an eerie and dangerous feeling about the Pequod and its doomed journey, and the quote is also able to give some insight into how the minor characters and shipmates interacted with one another. The power and intimidating nature of the sea is expressed through detailed imagery such as, “as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived…”. Although certain characters are not specifiicially developed, the overall feeling aboard ship is described in the periods between tasks and jobs.

    C.)
    1.) Do all the men on the ship view the try-works as a evil and ominous place just as Ishmael does?
    2.) For Ishmael, what is the fascination with this specific place that seems to serve such a boring and routine task?

  11. a) “Never dream with thy hand on the helm!”
    b) One thing I really enjoy about this quote is that it is so simple, don’t steer the ship when you’re dreaming. You need to stay focused. Other than that literal meaning, it can be taken further. Aren’t you always at the helm? You are constantly steering your life. There is no time to waste dreaming during life. There is nothing wrong with having dreams, but dreaming without following through is a waste of time and energy.
    c) What could the try works and the fiery ship represent as it sails on the water? (A ghost ship, representing the fact they were already condemned to the death when they left from Nantucket)

  12. A) “But that darkness was licked up by the fierce flames, which at intervals forked forth from the sooty flues… as with the famed Greek fire” (used in medival warfare).

    B) This quotation really gives good incite into how the Try-Works really made the crew of the Pequod feel. It gave an eerie feel of darkness aboard the ship. The diction gives you the feeling that Ishmael associates the try-works with the devil when he personifies the flames and uses the word “forked”. I think also by personifying the flames it paints a nice picture of what this setting might have looked like. The imagery really forces you to imagine the flames as alive and taking control of the try-works.

    C) Does the try-works have the same darkness and evil feeling to other sailors/whalers or is Ishmael the only one who feels this way?
    Is there anything else on the Pequod that evokes such feelings like the try-works does?

  13. A) “So seemed it to me, as I stood at her helm, and for long hours silently guided the way of this fire-ship on the sea. Wrapped, for that interval, in darkness myself, I but the better saw the redness, the madness, the ghastliness of others. The continual sight of the fiend shapes before me, capering half in smoke and half in fire, these at last begat kindred visions in my soul, so soon as I began to yield to that unaccountable drowsiness which ever would come over me at a midnight helm.”

    B) As Ishmael continues to get enveloped by the night and it’s terrors, after his extensive description of the try-works of the Pequod, he begins to feel drowsy, as described in this short passage. However, the description used is what I found most interesting about this passage. The flames of the try-works continue to daze him, as he attempts to steer the ship, and he loses concentration, in a very elaborately explained fashion. The language used by Melville takes the reader into Ishmael’s head, and the chaos of the night beautifully, and this passage is one of my favorites from the chapter that demonstrates this.

    C) Does Ishmael completely facing backward on the boat signify anything? what is the significance of fire in this section?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s