The Try-Works [C-Block]

C-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. 

20 thoughts on “The Try-Works [C-Block]

  1. A. “…the whale supplies his own fuel and burns his own body” (Melville 490)
    B. I found it particularly interesting how every part of the whale is used. The paragraph that this quote is found in creates imagery specifically regarding how whales are processed. This particular moment that Ishmael is describing is somewhat morbid but simultaneously intriguing. To me, he almost personifies the whale as if the whale knows what it is doing.
    C.
    1. What exactly is happening to Ishmael when he says that he was “horribly conscious of something fatally wrong” (492).
    2. What is the purpose of the Etymology at the beginning of the book?

  2. The Try Works Prompt Response
    A) “The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this earth (Melville 441).”
    B) This quote interests me because this is an interesting way to think of the ocean. What comes to mind when I think of the ocean is a fun and bubbly time. Its blue and free. It is interesting to see how the narrator describes the ocean.
    C) I would like to know why does Melville write that “…mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow…that mortal man cannot be true…(Melville 441)?. Why does he think that a man that is more happy than sad is fake?

  3. A) Would that he consumed his own smoke! for his smoke is horrible to inhale, and inhale it you must, and not only that, but you must live in it for the time. It has an unspeakable, wild … odour about it, such as may lurk in the vicinity of funereal pyres. It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment; it is an argument for the pit.
    B) During this quotation, the narrator switches the mood by addressing the reader. Not necessarily directly, but his use of the word “you” captures the attention of the reader. The paragraph, at this point, switches from an explanation of the try-works being started, and takes on a more vindictive tone. The way in which the odor of the burning fritters is described seems to send a message, making the reader feel as though they are being spoken to directly. When he says “and not only [inhale it], but you must live in it for the time,” it refers back to the “self-consuming misanthrope” and implies that those who engage in such activities will face this smell as though it is the judgment day. The try-works are at this point given a foreboding meaning. The use of the reference to “funereal pyres” and “the left wing of the day of judgement” capture the attention of the reader, bringing them back and reminding them that the try-works have another meaning. The danger of the try-works is later emphasized when the narrator says, “Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with thy hand on the helm!” (492)
    C) Is the passage that refers to Soloman and says “But he who dodges…not that man is fitted to sit down on tombstones…,” saying that mean who day dream and partake in more pleasing activities rather than thinking of God are not worthy?
    What is the author trying to do with his paragraph about the narrator’s strange experience while at the helm?

    Kristina Major

  4. A) “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. 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.”
    B) The metaphor presented with the eagle fits the novel in being symbolic and not literal. When Melville says “there is a Catskill eagle in some souls” meaning that some people possess the greater mind and perception than others. The intelligence and greatness of some is enough that even when they do “dive down into the blackest gorges” they are still higher than others because they are still in the mountains. I believe here Ishmael is talking about Ahab. Ahab’s sanity is questioned and his hunt for Moby Dick is making him dive into the gorges. However, the passion and spark in Ahab is what keeps him in the mountains. His mission is still more important than the anyone else’s on the ship because they are just soaring in the plains.
    C) What lead Ishmael to lose himself by staring at the try works? Is Ishmael the only ones able to see the flaws in Ahab, but also the good things about him?

  5. A) “…then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul.”

    B) This quotation from Ishmael creates a very dark mood. It seems to suggest that the Pequod and everyone aboard the ship is doomed. Saying that the ship is “plunging into the blackness of darkness” seems to foreshadow an unfortunate end for the Pequod. Ishmael also makes a point to include in describing the Pequod the details “freighted with savages”, “laden with fire”, and “burning a corpse.” All of this description paints a very dark picture in respect to the Pequod’s prospects. It makes it very clear that the Pequod and its crew is already on its way to a doomed ending. In addition, Ishmael compares this doomed ship to the soul of the ships captain, Ahab. This makes the Pequod’s future look even more bleak. The ship’s captain is leading his crew right into the “blackness of darkness.”

    C) How does Ishmael describe the try-works as a symbol of the ship as a whole?
    Why does Ishmael seem to foreshadow an unfortunate end to the Pequod many times throughout the book?
    Do Ishmaels’s digressions (i.e. talking about whales, the whaling industry, the ship, etc.) actually have a purpose in the story he is telling?

  6. A.) “The burning ship drove on, as if remorselessly commissioned to some vengeful deed” (408).
    B.) I find my quotation so intriguing because I find it interesting. I believe that the quote is showing the reader that maybe the occupation of whaling isn’t so humane as once thought. The quote is saying that the boat sails on to commit vengeful deeds, without remorse or regret, and I think maybe people nowadays would completely agree with that statement. The diction used in the novel are perfect because they completely get the point across and kind of make you truthfully ponder on the morality of whaling.
    C.) Why is Ishmael so fascinated and knowledgeable with the fire of the Try-Works, when that is not his job aboard the Pequod?
    Why does the novel Moby Dick have a chapter solely focused on the Try-Works when it really has nothing to do with the plot at all?

  7. A.)”The truest of all men was the man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Soloman’s, and Ecclesiates is the fine hammered steel of woe. “All is vanity”. ALL. This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristain Soloman’s wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitalsand jails, and walks fast crossing graveyards, and would rather talk of operas than hell…not that man is fitted to sit down on tomb-stones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably wonderous Soloman.”

    B.) I recorded this quote due to the number of allusions it makes specifically those from the bible and mankind itself. Ishmael describes the man of sorrows who is Jesus as he sees the truest being. He also alludes to the former king of Israel, Soloman, and an ancient Greek for their wise words in their writings are too the truest. I also see the powerful diction and asscertions as a satire of Ishmael to the rest of society. Ishmael believes man has come to focus on vanity or their achievments over everything else. He also makes the point of saying that men who try to act like death and destinies of hell are to be ignored instead of acknowleged do not deserve to be buried with great men like Soloman.

    C.) How does Ishmaels analogy to the birds and soaring eagle pertain to his outward commentary on man?
    How does Ishmael being heavily influenced by religion effect his outlook on the Pequod and its foreshadowed faith?

  8. A) “Look not too long in the face of fire.”
    B) I chose this quote because I think it is a huge theme throughtout Moby Dick. The majority of the novel is telling the story of Captain Ahab’s journey to find and kill Moby Dick. He is obsessed with seeking revenge, and I think this quote is suggesting to do the exact opposite. In my opinion, “fire” represents evil, hatred, or sin in this context. This quote is saying to stay away from sin and to not let this evil consume you. Ahab wasted the rest of his life by participating in a pointless evil.
    C)
    What is the significance of the Catskill Eagle? How does Moby Dick relate to the Catskill Eagle?
    How does Ahab’s madness affect the rest of the ship?

  9. A) “Then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander.” (419)

    B) In this quotation, the Pequod is compared to its commander, Ahab. Ishmael notes that Ahab is “monomaniac”, meaning that he is obsessed with one thing, in this case the pursuit of Moby Dick. Just before comparing the the ship to its captain, Ishmael develops the the setting of the Pequod. He says that it is “freighted with savages, laden with fire, burning a corpse, and plunging into the blackness of darkness. This paints a pretty dark and disturbing picture. It makes the Pequod out to be a savage place that is surrounded by death and darkness. Right after this description the Pequod is compared to Ahab. So does this mean that Ishmael believes Ahab to be savage, dark, and marked by death? I believe it is meant to be a direct description of Ahab and that Ishmael believes that Ahab is leading the Pequod down a dark path.

    C) Why does Ishmael go into so much depth describing the try works? Is it to prove his credibility? Is it to draw a comparison to Ahab? Is it just something that interests him?
    Is Ishmael intrigued by the Tri-Works or disgusted by them?

  10. A. “So seemed it to me, as I stood at her helm, and for long hours silently guided the way of the fire-ship on the sea. Wrapped, for that interval, in darkness myself, I but the better saw the redness, the madness, and the ghastliness of others” (Melville 409).
    B. This quote stood out to me because I think in a way it symbolizes a big part in the novel. While Ishmael discusses the darkness and madness that surrounds him while in the try works, he notices that others on the voyage are dark and mad as well, He is realizing that the try works, being an chaotic environment, is a microcosm for the chaotic environment of the Pequod as a whole. The Try Works, the room basically keeping the ship moving, is a symbol for the dark madness that is “keeping the crew running”. Ahab and his manipulated crew members are driven by madness, as the ship is driven by the room of darkness and madness.This diction gives sense of realization that Ismael feels that others were not able to notice. Ishmael grows as a character as he comes to reaization of the madness that aboards the ship.
    In this quote, distinct imagery is used when explaining the environment of the room. As he says “Wrapped” he is explaining that he is confined in one room. It displays to the reader that he may even be trapped in this “darkness”.
    C.
    1. Why does Ishmael believe that the world has not grasped Solomon’s wisdom yet?
    2. Why does Ishmael believe it is impossible for a man feel more joy than sorrow? Was his opinion changed due to his experience on the ship? How did he feel before boarding the ship?

  11. A) “There is wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is a madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can be alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and sour out of 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.” (411)

    B) This quote comes at the end of Chapter 96 after Ishmael is mesmerized by the fires of the try-works. This passage is a metaphor to not give in to forms of escapism, such as daydreaming or fantasizing. It also suggests that woe and madness can be helpful for someone with enough soul. So, an intelligent and perceptive person whose soul is “in the mountains”, or greater than the average person’s soul, may have a different and better perspective on anything. I think that this quote relates to Ahab because of his madness as a captain. He may be “within the gorge” but his greatness makes him more important than any other sailor on the ship.

    C) Why are the try-works and how they work so interesting to Ishmael?
    Was there any point of Melville writing a whole chapter on the try-works? If there was a point, how are the try-works significant?

  12. The Try Works
    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 into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever 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.”

    B) I see this last thought of an especially jarring and dark chapter like the Try Works as an argument for Ishmael’s chosen lifestyle. The quote describes resilience, and how it is more admirable to have been in dark, terrible days, and cope with them than to never experience darkness at all. He places himself and others who can embrace reality for what it is above those who choose to deny or avoid it. On the other hand Ishmael chose to board the Pequod with her deathly decorations, and the mysterious Ahab. Ahab has allowed himself to dive too low in his woe, and is near madness. The rest of the crew seem to be hardened by many years of whaling, and although Ishmael describes them as a seemingly demonic bunch during the scene of the try works, he probably envies their resilience. He is nearly driven mad by the imposing stench and flame of the try works.

    C) Why do the try works cause Ismael to view the crew in a different light rather than the killing of whales?

    Is Ishmael scared of what is to come in this scene?

  13. A) “Here lounged the watch, when not otherwise employed, looking into the red heat of the fire, till their eyes felt scorched in their heads.” Pg 409

    B) This quotation reflects Ahab’s madness, and how the crew of the Pequod goes along with it. The way that the watch is there when they do not have anything else to do, is similar to how the crew is on the ship and has nothing else to do, or go, they must stay on the ship and do what it requires them to. The watch sits in this room and just watches the fire until their eyes hurt, not stopping, the same way that they look at Ahab and do not act against him. He is forcing the ship into dangerous situations because of his obsession with hunting Moby Dick and the crew is just going along with it, not protesting, and watching as his decisions and actions lead to or bring harm to the whole crew and the ship.

    C) How does Ishmael’s description of the people on watch reflect on his role on the ship?
    Is the crew unable to realize the dangers of Ahab’s obsession or are they too afraid to confront him?

  14. A) “These fritters feed the flames. Like a plethoric burning martyr, or a self consuming misanthrope, once ignited the whale supplies his own fuel and burns by his body.Would that he consumed his own smoke! for his smoke is horrible to inhale, and inhale it you must, and not only that, but you must live in it for the time. It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindor odor about it, such as may lurk in the vicinity of funereal pyres. It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment; it is an argument for the pit.”
    B) This quotation provides an account from Ishmael, where he describes the evil a whale contains and the try works. Ishmael often respects the whale and does not talk about it in this manner. However in this description, he is memorized by the fire burning, and it seems as though he instantly sees all of the dangers of the ocean at once. Almost as if he is in a daydream, Ishmael alludes the whale to yet another biblical reference, referring to it as the “day of judgment.” Judgment day, where God will decide who goes to heaven, is a direct parallel to Moby Dick. He will bring them to their end, and ultimately decides all of the sailors’ fate.
    C)At the end of the chapter, Ishmael explains the relation between madness and woe which seems he is commenting on Ahab’s ignorance, and foreshadowing an event. Is this what is really happening? Or is Ishmael still the unbiased narrator from the previous chapters?
    Why are the Try Works actually so important to the book, and why is this not just a chapter the reader can skim through?

  15. A. “It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odour about it, such as may lurk in the vicinity of funeral pyres. It smells like the left wing of the day of judgement. It is an argument for the pit.”

    B. I find this quotation very interesting because Melville compares the pit to “the left wing of the day of judgement.” I think that this quote raises the idea of fate which is constantly brought up in the book. If the Pequod has its own version of hell beneath the deck, did it ever stand a chance against Moby Dick?

    C. Why did Melville write an entire chapter dedicated to the try-works? Would the novel be the same without it?

  16. A) “It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odor about it, such as may lurk in the vicinity of funeral pyres. It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment; it is an argument for the pit” (408).
    B Here, Ishmael is associating the try-works with evil and darkness. He creates the mood that he is disgusted by what the try-works is like. With the use of imagery, Ishmael makes the reader feel as if he/she is there, seeing and smelling the try-works first hand. I found it interesting that he talks about it being the harpooneers that tend the room because of his association of the try-works with exotic evil. It made me wonder if maybe the try-works are viewed in such a bad way partially because of who spends the most time there. He makes a point to talk about how dark it is and the blackness associated with it, but at other points in the book he mentions that whaling ships are never dark because they have a huge supply of oil from the whales they hunt. Another part that stuck out was when he said “it smells like the left wing of the day of judgment.” This shows his extremely strong opinion and may even be exaggerated.
    C) Why does Ishmael have such a strong negative opinion about the try-works when he isn’t even the one working there? What makes Ishmael zone out while standing near the try works? Is the try-works a symbol for something more?

  17. A.) “Like a plethoric burning martyr, or a self-consuming misanthrope, once ignited, the whale supplies his own fuel and burns by his own body.”

    B.) I thought this was an interesting way of stating the fact that they use whale blubber as fuel on a whaling ship. Ishmael makes it a point of saying that he believes the whale is giving its body so that the crew may catch and do just the same to other whales. The choice of words here gives the impression that the burning of the whales has a higher, more important, underlying meaning. Ishmael’s use of imagery, not in this quote but in the lines following it, is strong and is used to describe the intensely noxious odor of the burning whale. He talks of how it smells like a funeral in that the other whales that have yet to be burned are smelling the smoke and dreading the smell because it will one day be the smokey odor they emit to other whales.

    C.) Why does Ishmael include so much grave foreshadowing in this one chapter about a part of the ship? What makes Ishmael think of Ahab’s qualities, good and bad, when he is giving the narrative of the try-works?

  18. A. “But even Solomon, he says, ‘the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain’… And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar,” (Melville 442).

    B. This quotation is intriguing because it is wise and inspiring. Solomon and Ishmael are saying that if you dig a little deeper in thought and see things from different points of view, you will be more advanced and successful. As far as imagery, while reading you can see the eagle flying in the gorge in the mountain.

    C. Two questions inspired by the rereading of “The Try-Works” are:
    Why was Ishmael so disoriented from staring at the try-works? And why are they so important?

  19. A) “These mouths are fitted with heavy doors of iron. The intense heat of the fire is prevented from communicating itself to the deck, by means of a shallow reservoir extending under the entire inclosed surface of the works. By a tunnel inserted at the rear, this reservoir is kept replenished with water as fast as it evaporates. There are no external chimneys; they open direct from the rear wall. And here let us go back for a moment,” (408).

    B) I chose this passage due to its vivid descriptions of something as simple as the “mouths of the furnaces” in the try-works. Lines such as “replenished with water as fast as it evaporates” and “intense heat of the fire” catches a reader’s attention and gives them a strong picture in their head of what is being described. It gives what should be a boring aspect of the story some life and also gives a sense of importance to this part of the ship. In addition, the ending to this paragraph is captivating. It states, “And here let us go back for a moment.” This is a calming end to a somewhat turbulent passage and is also a bit of a cliff hanger for what is to come in the next part of the chapter.

    C) What makes the try-works different from the other parts of the boat? Are the try-works significant to Ishmael specifically, and is that why he places strong emphasis on this chapter?

  20. 1. “…once ignited, the whale supplies his own fuel and burns by his own body”(418)
    2. I found this quote especially intriguing because it creates a cycle, and relates to day to day life. Ishmael is saying that a whale was supplying the Pequod with oil and fuel. The fuel being supplied was being used to kill more whales. It draws the parallel the actions of others will affect others in the long run.
    3.Why do the try-works seem so important to Ishmael? Does the ‘try-pots’ form an earlier chapter have parallels to the try-works? or is the naming of them just a coincidence?

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