Beyond the Resentful Sibling Strife: Melville's Pierre(Special Issue Dedicated to Professor KO Sung-Ha,Professor TERAKI Nobuaki)Beyond the Resentful Sibling Strife: Melville's Pierre(Special Issue Dedicated to Professor KO Sung-Ha,Professor TERAKI Nobuaki)AA12704345 Beyond the Resentful Sibling Strife : Melville's Pierre (高成廈教授退任記念号 寺木伸明教授退任記念号)
Is the protagonist Pierre or his illicit half-sister Isabel ? Either, it seems, can take the leading role in Pierre ; or, the Ambiguities written by Herman Melville (1819-91) in 1852, a story that seems mono-layered but is actually composed of two different tiers. This paper analyzes the sub-plot in which Isabel comes to dominate Pierre's psyche. The analysis clarifies three problems : what is Isabel's hidden motive in appearing before Pierre and consequently ruining his life; what ethico-psychological problem lies beyond Isabel's apparent resentment and anger at her sibling ; and how did Melville involved himself through Isabel in the story of sibling strife? Isabel, with her name suggestive of Jezebel, the evil queen of Ahab, ruins the sentimentally portrayed kitschy relationship of her half-brother with his mother Mary and forces him to break the engagement with Lucy, the docile girl submissive to Mary. As an illicit daughter betrayed and abandoned by her father, Pierre's licit father, Isabel retaliates against Pierre for having exclusively enjoyed parental love. Excluded from the mainstream society of midnineteenth-century New England as an orphan with an ambiguous identity race-wise and class-wise, Isabel augments her anger at Pierre, her half-brother who stays snug in his socially privileged position and uncritical of his environment. Isabel's rivalrous envy at her younger brother reminds us of the (mock-) sibling strife in the Biblical episodes, in Melville's other works, and also in Melville's own personal history : the strife of Ishmael with Isaac, of Joseph with his elder brothers, of Billy with Claggart, and of Melville with his elder brother. Isabel keenly detects Pierre's immersion in the social and therefore patriarchal tendency of the nineteenth-century secularized Puritans to imitate their own fathers, and she allows him to imitate their mutual father. In this atmosphere she may find a father-substitute in Pierre and acquire a kind of love that she should have acquired from her biological father. Luckily for Isabel, Puritanism was replaced by what Levinas describes as love, or the sentimental love in the context of the mid-nineteenth century feminized culture of America. The love in question, Levinas holds, was promoted up to the superlative level of religion. Though an outsider to these social circumstances, Isabel gains advantage from them as a domestic Marxist demanding equal distribution of family affection. To force Pierre to confront a reality akin to what she faces herself, the reality of an excluded and wounded third party who has no choice but to permit herself to listen to the affectionate dialogue of the close-knit upper-middleclass (Glendinning) family, Isabel shakes the problematical foundation of Western philosophy upon which Pierre's prerogative status of subject is established as a propertied white male self. Isabel forces Pierre to switch from his Western/Logical mode of perception into the Gnostic /heretical and to suspect the Western way of reasoning or the philosophical system that has laid the thinking foundation upon the establishment of self as the prerogative subject. Isabel misuses Levinas' ethics and demands that the subject [Pierre] interrogate himself : "[m]y being-in-the-world or my `place in the sun', my being at home, have these not also been the usurpation of spaces belonging to the other man [sic] whom I have already oppressed or starved, or driven out into a third world ; are they not acts of repulsing, excluding, exiling, stripping, killing ?" The biblical Ishmael, the illegitimate child born between Abraham and his Egyptian handmaid Hagar, is expelled by Abraham's wife Sarah, just as Isabel is expelled by Pierre's mother Mary. Ishmael's doom is to have "his hand . . .against every man, and every man's hand against him. . . in the presence of all his brethren," and Isabel acts out as Ishmael. Like the biblical Ishmael, whose "affliction" "the LORD hath heard," Isabel has her brother Pierre hear her affliction. The author, like Isabel, was deprived of parental love by a preferred brother who claimed it exclusively. Just as the whole world is against Isabel and Ishmael, so it was against Melville after publishing Pierre, the novel fraught with incestuous images. Yet unlike Isabel, Melville had no one to listen to him.