This article addresses the question of parasitism in Melville's short story "Jimmy Rose" (1855). Here, the narrator—William Ford—describes the sad fate of the title character, who was once rich, popular, and renowned for his lavish parties. Due to bad luck in business, he ends up having to live off his former admirers, from whom he earns free dinners through a combination of flattery and charm. As previous critics have noted, Jimmy Rose can thus be described as a parasite. However, whereas some scholars have also analyzed the narrator's unreliability, none have so far posed the question of whether he, too, has something of the parasite in him. A close reading of Ford's seemingly inconspicuous narrative strategies reveals him to embody aristocratic ideals wholly at odds with those of Jacksonian America. His aversion to labor and his corresponding fondness for idleness define him as an aristocratic remnant caught in a democratic present he despises. In addition, I argue that his narrative gives us sly hints that it is precisely through having parasitized the dying Jimmy Rose that he inherited the one thing that allows him to go on living an easy life of leisure: a habitat.


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pp. 37-51
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