The Confidence Man Author:Herman, Melville The action in this story takes place aboard a Mississippi steamboat, the Fidele: — As among Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims...there was no lack of variety. Natives of all sorts, and foreigners; men of business and men of pleasure; parlour men and backwoodsmen; farm-hunters and fame-hunters; heiress-hunters, buffalo-hunters, bee-hunters, happiness-h... more »unters, truth-hunters, and still keener hunters after these hunters. Fine ladies in slippers, and moccasined Native-American women; Northern speculators and Eastern philosophers; English, Irish, German, Scotch, Danes...grinning African-Americans and Sioux chiefs solemn as high-priests.
In short, the steamboat is America, or perhaps the world itself, and contains every possible variety of person. Among these circulates the "confidence man," a swindler who takes on various disguises during the course of the voyage: a crippled African-American, a promoter of shares in the Black Rapids Coal Company, a fund-raiser for the Seminole Orphans Home, and employment agent, and a spurious philosopher. Because the confidence man succeeds in duping most of the people he approaches, Melville calls the Fidele, at one point, "a ship of fools."
The Confidence Man is a masquerade of the public faces we all present to the world.« less