by Herman Melville
Moby-Dick Chapter 94: A Squeeze of the Hand Summary
- Stubb and his men bring back the whale they captured on the outing where they abandoned Pip, and the crew butcher the whale using the methods that Ishmael explained in previous chapters.
- The men on board the ship drag away the barrels filled with spermaceti from the whale’s case. Outside of the whale’s warm body, the spermaceti cools and forms fatty lumps.
- The men stick their hands into the gooey white mass (think of half-congealed bacon fat) and "squeeze the lumps back into fluid" (94.3).
- All morning Ishmael works with his hands in the sperm, squeezing it, forgetting about Captain Ahab’s insane quest for revenge, just experiencing the aromatic oils and squeezing lumps of spermaceti and even squeezing the hands of other men who are doing the same job.
- The experience becomes almost transcendent, and Ishmael ends with a vision of "long rows of angels in paradise, each with his hands in a jar of spermaceti" (94.6).
- Ishmael describes some of the other oily substances, besides spermaceti, that come from the whale, which include white-horse, chunks of flesh marbled with fat from the tail end of the whale); plum-pudding, chunks of flesh mottled golden and purple that are attached to the blubber in different places; slobgollion, an oozy stringy mass of membranes left over after the squeezing of the spermaceti; gurry, the dark goo scraped off the outside of the whale; and nippers, strips of tendon cut from the tail.
- All of these substances are dealt with in the blubber-room below decks, where a man with a hook called a "gaff" holds each piece of blubber still while another man stands on it and cuts it into pieces with a spade—trying not to cut his toes off in the process.
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