SiStan ChapLee

Monday, April 28, 2014

Off Topic: The Confidence-Whale

Ahab Turambar

Something more on Herman Melville's last novel The Confidence-Man (1857), that has been mentioned yesterday in reference to the literary and religious theme of the Serpent. The Confidence-Man belongs to the list of underrated masterpieces: deep and humorous -- or "genial," to use a word often employed in the book --, a fairy tale and a Miltonian sequel, a story full of subtle allusions and symbols as well as very concrete remarks on society, both that of the mid-19th century and our own with its multinational companies, the world financial power, the shallow culture of mass communication, etc.

Who is the Confidence-Man? The character himself continually forces readers to ask this to themselves. If he happens to be one, his personality is split into two like Jekyll and Hyde's (see the dialogue between Frank and Charlie, even taking place two times). As a personal hypothesis, based on the whole of the plot and on the carefully chosen wording employed by Melville, he is . . .  Moby-Dick.
Yeah, That Thing is no longer underwater, now he has come aboard, and he can think and speak. Cf. Lady Arabella in Bram Stoker's last novel The Lair of the White Worm (1911). Like the Confidence Man, Moby-Dick also was a "mask," according to Captain Ahab at least; and in fact, the characters who oppose the cheater on board of the steamboat Fidèle have some features in common with "Old Thunder."
So, is the Confidence-Man the devil? He is, probably, in the same measure in which the Whale was and/or was not.