On the steamer Fidèle, everyone is a stranger, but this essay focuses on how Melville examines the mysterious manipulations of identity brought on by grief. Melville infuses the satirical narrative with many figures of mourning, including one incarnation of the titular "confidence-man." The man with the weed on his hat imitates the prescribed conduct of bereavement in order to attract people through his dubious distress. But the man with the weed is not the only one in weeds aboard the steamer, and throughout the book Melville displays the transformations brought on by formal grieving. Critical studies of The Confidence-Man have addressed the social and intellectual modes that the novel satirizes, including pity, charity, social mobility, and transcendentalism. I posit that, by sketching models of melancholy, Melville considers the imposture of grief, and he demonstrates how the performance of mourning engenders the distrust of private, unknowable sorrow.


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pp. 94-114
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