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Israel Potter is, among other things, an exercise in writing about exile. The overlapping convolutions and gaps that shape the narrative may be understood as textually embodying the suspensions (in time) and detours (in space) often associated with exile. The novel's parade of fleeting presences and regular displacements underscores what could be called Potter's moving stasis. Melville's experiments with form, however, are always intertwined with social, historical, and/or ideological issues, and this is particularly clear in Israel Potter. In the passage that describes Franklin's maps, Melville uses Franklin's own imagery of "full" and "desert" spaces to allude to the doctor's appropriation of European arguments for colonialism, and to play on the contrast between fullness and emptiness. That contrast is key to the treatment of exile in the novel.