Imagery And Figurative Language In Herman Melville's The Try-Works

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Authors must have a thorough grasp on integrating literary devices to portray the scene for the reader. Specifically, vivid imagery and figurative language are imperative to setting the mood. Herman Melville, often considered one of the greatest American novelists, always incorporates these into his works of literature, including Moby Dick. One of the clearest examples of his ability to create a specific atmosphere is Chapter 96, “The Try-Works.” In a passage from this chapter Melville carefully crafts an atmosphere of peril with a combination of the personification of flames and oil, extended metaphors about the crew members, and foreboding symbolism regarding the ship the Pequod. To fulfill his objective of constructing the mood, Melville personifies certain elements during the precarious process of burning whale blubber, showing the treachery of the task. The harpooners are risking their lives to complete this difficult task. Ishmael, who is watching the event take place, narrates, “[The harpooners] stirred up the fire beneath, till the snaky flames darted, curling, out of the doors to catch them by their feet.” The flames are not just a tool for melting blubber, but they are a separate entity capable of harming the crew and causing destruction. Melville’s description of fire as a sentient being elevates the tense mood. He also personifies the hot oil as possessing dangerous qualities. Melville explains, “To every pitch of the ship there was a pitch of boiling oil,

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