Horologicals and chronometricals as structure : Pierre, "The Encantadas," and Billy Budd

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1977

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Melville's works after Moby Dick contain extraordinary complexity and ambiguity which cause basic problems in any critical evaluation. Relationships between characters or between images often confound the traditional approaches which focus on theme, point of view, or symbol. Studies of this type attempt to clarify the ambiguities but often leave secondary ambiguities which are even more complex. Melville, however, generates in Pierre, a system of moral truth within the Plinlimmon pamphlet which is applicable in every human circumstance, providing a fundamental structure and an organizing vehicle capable of clarifying much of the ambiguity present in his later works. Basically, Plinlimmon's system is one of extremes which shows absolute, chronometrical truth at one end of its spectrum and relativistic, horological truth at the other end. Man is subject to building his existence on some point within the system, and, to a large extent, this point will determine the course of his life. Melville's later works--Pierre, "The Encantadas," and Billy Budd in particular--are easily identified in terms of this system, and their tensions are derived from the tensions in Plinlimmon's pamphlet. Establishing a structure for Melville's works based on the system of horologicals and chronometricals offers clarifying insights into Melville which dissolve the ambiguity and prove a rewarding approach to his later works.

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