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The Confidence Man

Group Presentation for Dr Larson
by

Emilee Scialpi

on 12 April 2013

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Transcript of The Confidence Man

The Confidence Man by Herman Melville Who is the Confidence Man? plays confidence games, successful, monetary gains Is he one man in many guises? Or is he multiple people, each with a different confidence game? A mute wearing cream colors and a white fur hat; a crippled African American beggar named Black Guinea; a man with a weed; an agent from the Seminole Widow and Orphan Asylum; an agent of the Black Rapids Coal Company; an herb doctor selling Omni-Balsamic Reinvigorator and Samaritan Pain Dissuader; the bone setter; an officer of the Philosophical Intelligence Office, the Cosmopolitan; and Frank Goodman on board the Fidele "Charity thinketh no evil." Headed down the Mississippi River ....leaving from St. Louis On April 1st each a particular type of person Where the Confidence Man meets an array of people.... And the confidence game is played... according to the weakness of each person The Confidence Game Confidence Distrust Charity These key terms are found throughout the novel, their meanings like the Confidence Man himself are dual, complex, and provoking Instinct
Reason July 7, 1849- William Thompson
Confidence Man on a Large Scale
The Man with the Weed The Original Confidence Man What makes it American?
Ability to trust strangers
Identity/Realism
Saving Face
Winning American Themes Universal Themes
Inherent Nature of Man
Good vs. Evil
Imperatives of Capacity to Extend “Confidence” (i.e., trust)
Whether such “trust” truly possible
Appearance vs. Instinct as basis for Social Intercourse
Role of Reason
Value of Absolute Positions
National Themes
National tendencies towards—
Greed
Self-interest
Unchecked entrepreneurial spirit
Cynicism and skepticism
Readiness to embrace all-encompassing views of human nature and abilities of different races
Absolutes admit of no synthesis and are ultimately destructive Major Themes Dramatized in Melville’s
The Confidence Man” Incomplete Dialectic
Series of vignettes and anecdotes which serve dual purpose
Set up debate of the novel’s major themes in related “incidents”
Resolve by irresolution: Confidence Man gains “evidence” of “confidence”
To succumb is not a “synthesis”
Method: Dialectic Form
Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis form suggested within each “incident”
Incomplete Dialectic
No resolution which represents a compromised position between two poles or themes
Problem: Identify “Incidents” Approaching Synthesis
Identify vignettes in which both sides of debate dramatized “The Confidence Man” and Melville’s Use of Incomplete Dialectic: Illustration
Plethora of “incidents” to choose from
Compare and contrast select “incidents”
Criteria
Themes arrayed in nearly perfect antagonism
Resolution without compromise of positions
No capitulation to the Confidence Man
Compare 2 Vignettes
Col. John Moredock (Chs. 25 – 27)
The Barber “The Confidence Man” and Melville’s Use of Incomplete Dialectic Bearskin and “the Cosmopolitan”
Themes
Inherent evil in one’s heart
Appearance vs. True Nature as Good or Evil
“General law of distrust applied to the entire race (979)”
Rule of Social Intercourse: Distrust or Extend “Confidence”
“I have confidence in distrust”
“Metaphysics of Indian-Hating”
Appearance alone and Absolute Response
Absolute and inherent evil
Effect of Social Environment
“Loving hearts…”
Indian Hater Par Excellence and Diluted
Absolute Lack of Confidence Destroys the Person
No Synthesis Possible “The Confidence Man” and Melville’s Use of Incomplete Dialectic: The Indian-Hater The Barber and “the Cosmopolitan”
Themes
Inherent evil in one’s heart
Appearance vs. True Nature as Good or Evil
Rule of Social Intercourse: Distrust or Extend “Confidence”
“No trust”
Appearance of a Capitulation of Succumbing to the Confidence Man
Experience has led to an Absolute Response
Effect of Social Environment
Exchanges sign for contract and demand of “pledge”
Appearance of trust
Absolute Lack of Confidence Destroys the Person
Semblance of a synthesis “The Confidence Man” and Melville’s Use of Incomplete Dialectic: The Barber Masquerade
Human Nature
Phrenology
Life is a Stage
Transcendentalist Romanticism Explores the Satanic and serpentine Imagery
Show Comparison of the novel's confidence man with John Milton's Satan.
Milton's book "Paradise Lost” in relation Milton in Melville's Confidence Man.
Milton and Melville Confidence in Milton -Women as a ruse
-Women and the control of money
-Women as a point of pity
-Connection to Shakespeare A Charitable Lady
Goneril
John Moredock’s widowed mother
China Aster’s wife/widow Women in the Confidence Man Sonya Groves
Joseph Hernandez
Dexter Gilford
Lamarr Green
Emilee Scialpi
Michael Ramirez The End Thank you for your Charity....... Melville’s Reliance on Dialectic Movement in The Confidence Man Incomplete Synthesis Key Vignette: The Indian-Hater Par Excellence and the Diluted Indian Hater Vignette as Primary Device of Movement Exchange as Litmus Test: Opportunity for Synthesis Incomplete Synthesis 2 Levels Novel-wide Vignette as Stand Alone or in Series Absolute extreme illustrated but not dramatized Completion of Melville’s Moral Absolute extremes destructive Social intercourse demands middle ground Human nature complex Failure of Synthesis Confidence Man lives on as does the Indian Hater Romanticism/ Transcendentalism Satan sowing seeds by Felicien Rops The Confidence Man and Romantic and Transcendental allagory The Confidence Man was Melville's allegory on the decline of American society
The title stemmed from the true story of a con-man who asked his victims if they have “confidence” in their trust for him.
Melville creates this mysterious character which then challenges and tempts characters in various cons. Elements of Romanticism/Transcendentalism Imagination and the self are gateways to the truth
Freedom lies in nature and the self
Transcendentalist belief that the self is found in a oneness with nature and the movement away from modern social structures.
The idea that all men are inherently good and are influenced to allow unhappiness in their lives. Elements of Romanticism/ Transcendentalism in The Confidence Man Melville creates “the Confidence man” in a shroud of mystery, clothed in white ‘His cheek was fair, his chin downy, his hair flaxen, his hat a white fur one, with a long fleecy nap’ Satan shares these qualities being the angel of light usually depicted in white as a fallen angel. Satan also usually is able to shape shift in order to deceive his victims (Eve in the garden) The Confidence Man does exactly this on the boat. We find throughout the novel that the narrator isn't clear as to the identity of the confidence man.
Melville creates well meaning intentions in the charity of the characters but creates hypocrisy in their social influences and thoughts. This in turn is contrary to the elements in which the boat sails through and across the natural world, but the boat become s a microcosm of American and social values, the reason for moral decline.
We see that in “the self “, much like transcendental ideals , that social structures are the direct influence in corruption ( The Confidence Man’s motivation for committing con’s) of the soul. It is Society and man’s structures ( the boat ) that creates this deception.
Melville’s story is an allegorical tale of the dangers of society and greed and the influences of evil over our free will. That freedom lies in the separation of yourself from the social influences.
Full transcript