Is the confidence man gullible in any way himself?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In some respects, it makes sense that this represented one of Melville's last works.  There is so much in way of ambiguity and doubt in what Melville has constructed.  I think that it is a departure from some of his other characterizations, perhaps reflective of where he sees American society at the time.  The confidence man is shown to be someone who is not really only one person.  He dons different masquerades and different personas.  In this, Melville might be suggesting that the confidence man is elusive, similar to how all human beings might be.  Individuals show different aspects of their own personality to different people at different moments, indicating a type of "confidence scheme" in all relations.  Everyone, in this light, is a confidence man, at some point.  Melville suggests that there is no master puppeteer.  The deceiver might also be deceived, as other confidence men board the boat.  It is not merely that there is one confidence man, one clear and defined element where surreptitious means and deception are evident.  Rather, it is an onslaught of individuals who show different realities at different moments, keeping anything pure and valid close to their chest.  In this, the confidence man is running a game of which he knows, but might become susceptible to another type of game run against him.  He simply does not know, and neither do we.  In this, the confidence men is us and we are him, unaware of what confidence schemes lie in front of us and only slightly aware if what we are doing in our known schemes are effective in terms of hustling in the first place.

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