In Melville ‘s novel, the confidence-man ( or con-man ) masquerades as many characters, utilizing his glib lingua and sympathetic chumminess in order to lead on the riders aboard the Fidele even as a mark posted on the steamboat offers a wages for the impostor. While the Confidence-Man manages to take on a overplus of character, he queerly lacks a sense of individuality in altering his visual aspect so many times. It so seems that Melville explores the bounds of individuality, measuring the confidence-man and his series of “ assurance games ” with the riders of the Fidele.
While it seems that the confidence-man does non incorporate a true individuality, he does, nevertheless, represent the construction of individuality. As he exploits and manipulates those around him on the boat, it appears that the foundation of his individuality lies in each camouflage he takes. However, the job with this is that all of the people aboard the Fidele are partaking in the same misrepresentation and use as the confidence-man is ; hence, it could go progressively hard to separate characters from one another in the instance of individuality. For illustration, Thomas Fry receives charity by feigning to be a veteran ( Melville ) . Even the miser, with his air of poorness, is a fraud himself ( Melville ) . The most outstanding illustration that comes to mind is that of Charlie Noble. Charlie appears before the confidence-man-while he is in camouflage as the cosmopolitan-and engages in a slightly “ conflict of assurance ” with him ( Melville 144 ) . Throughout the chapters of their statement, it is hard to spot who is speaking ; nevertheless, as their conversation advancements, they cease to use the characteristic manners that differentiate their voices ( Melville 144-163 ) . To farther exemplify, when Charlie foremost meets the confidence-man he resorts to unworldly colloquialisms, and the confidence-man himself utilizes his freakish fluency in his reply to the inquiry about misanthropy:
“ Might every bit good inquire me what kind of esthesis is hydrophobia. Do n’t cognize ; ne’er had it. But I have frequently wondered what it can be like. Can a misanthropist feel warm, I ask myself ; take easiness? be companionable with himself? Can a misanthropist smoke a cigar and Muse? How fares he in purdah? Has the misanthropist such a thing as an appetency? Shall a Prunus persica refresh him? The effervescence of bubbly, with what oculus does he lay eyes on it? Is summer good to him? Of long winters how much can he kip? What are his dreams? How feels he, and what does he, when all of a sudden awakened, entirely, at dead of dark, by salvos of boom? ” ( 163 ) .
Melville refuses to still the conforming of vocal individualities, nevertheless, but alternatively farther confuses it by inserts longer and longer stretches of duologue with no spoting ascriptions. Unfortunately, the lone thing that separates the two from each other is when Charlie loses the “ assurance conflict ” the in which the two of them engaged from the minute they met. After the confidence-man asks for a loan from Charlie, Charlie springs from his place in a commotion of pique and “ [ O ] Greenwich Mean Time of old stuffs sprang a new animal. Cadmus glided into a serpent ” ( Melville 185 ) . To quiet him down, the cosmopolite employs his powers of sorcery in order to alter him back to his friend Charlie-although whether it was meant literally is questionable ( Melville 185 ) . It is now clear that the confidence-man ‘s individuality is defined by winning this “ assurance game ” he plays with others, non by misrepresentation.
Melville explores this definition farther as he offers another sense of these games in the instance of Pitch. Better known as the Missourian, Pitch has three brushs with the confidence-man in assorted camouflages. The most challenging brush between the two of them is where the confidence-man is disguised the Philosophical Intelligence Office agent. The confidence-man convinces Pitch to order another boy-even after all of his bad experiences with them-and makes him pay committee plus the cost of the male child ‘s travel disbursals ( Melville 133 ) . When Pitch foremost loses his pique during the brush with the PIO agent, nevertheless, it is obvious that confidence-man has won the game long before he wins Pitch ‘s assurance ( Melville 123 ) . Interestingly plenty, when Pitch loses his pique, the two of them are engaged in a argument about how consistent personalities seem to be over clip. The confidence-man attempts to reason that possibly a adult male would be a better pick for Pitch versus a male child, but Pitch declares that “ [ a ] ll male childs are rogues and so are all menaˆ¦my name is Pitch ; I stick to what I say ” ( Melville 130 ) . By “ once more winging off at his tangent ” alternatively of altering his head, his passionate, humiliated show of behaviour and repeat Markss him as the also-ran of the assurance game ( 130 ) . Once more, the assurance game seems to divide those in individuality alternatively of merely mere misrepresentation.
Now, the reader can see that the competitory border the confidence-man holds over the other characters can merely be secured with an reliable identity-which remains consistent with what the reader knows of the confidence-man. He seems to hold no lasting features that attribute to his success since he effortlessly flows from character to persona ; hence, he seems to simply hold advantage itself when he plays his assurance game. Queerly, there is barely any difference between those who win and those who lose other than the manner they win and lose. The confidence-man-in all of his personas-uses each character ‘s properties as purchase while the characters he encounters ( and deceives ) do non cognize that it is their ain features that undermine their opportunity at winning the game. This proves that advantage is non a portion of personality that an character can possess, but a fact that either is or is non.
The bounds of individuality so become clear. The confidence-man himself does non go those he portrays, and hence, should non be confused with them. In other words, he embodies a character wholly, non as those for which he is taken. While it may be easy to spot which character he has taken on at what clip, the reader has the sense that the confidence-man holds many individualities when it is simply the thought of individuality, non individuality itself. As stated before, his advantage does non stem from the many characters he transforms into but instead his ability to glide in and out of professions, personalities, and even race like simple vesture. While some might see the confidence-man as a merger of many characters, he is, in fact, none of these. It is his ability to flux in and out of character every bit fleetly as the Mississippi river he travels down that gives him advantage over the others, and it is where the bounds of his individuality end-he may be able to alter effortlessly, but it is this that besides causes him to be undefined when it comes to individuality because winning his assurance game depends upon being no 1.
Melville, Herman. The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade. Eds. Hershell Parker and Mark Niemeyer. New York: W. W. Norton & A ; Company, 2006.