Chapters 95, 96, 97, and 98 “The Cassock”; “The Try-Works”; “The Lamp”; “Stowing Down and Cleaning Up”
These chapters go into detail on the process of rendering oil from the whale. The cassock describes the humorous custom of using the skin of the whale penis as a cloak with arm-holes (cassock) for the high priest of the blubber boiling. The ship has a brick kiln with a roaring fire into the night sky, which melts blubber into oil. The oil is cooled and stored in casks.
Analysis Chapters 95, 96, 97, 98
“The Try-Works” is a central chapter on evil and suffering in life. The whale burning up in its own fuel gives off a horrible odor, and the firelight produces “Tartarean shapes” of shadows. The 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” (96. 419).
Ishmael falls asleep at the tiller and feels the ship steering for death. But he wakes himself in time: “Believe not the artificial fire” which turns all things ghastly, for in spite of the sorrow that seems the natural lot of men, there is a “Catskill eagle” in some souls that can dive into a dark gorge and soar out again (see Metaphors). Ishmael will prove to be the Catskill eagle of the Pequod, who can fly out of the mouth of hell.