Pierre; or, the Ambiguities is the most complex work of the one of the great American novelists, Herman Melville.
Some critics have praised it as a good romance novel, whereas some regard it as an insightful memoir. In all the debates between the critics, little agreement has been reached. The complexity of the story provided arguments on every side. Importantly, in the 20th century, Pierre has captured the interest of many readers, speculating about the psychological undercurrent in the plot and the history behind the writing of the novel).
Still, much debate is still ongoing as regards to the intricateness of Melville's most complex work. The Author Many have heard the name Herman Melville—especially among high school and college students. Indeed, Melville is an important name in American literature, and his works have been studied and analyzed in more ways than one. Herman Melville was born to Allan Melville and Maria Gansevoort.
He belongs to a well-off family of merchants and war heroes. His father was a successful import merchant who provided a comfortable life to his children.He would tell them sea-faring adventures and various far-away lands, thus beginning Herman Melville's interest in such stories. He worked as a cabin boy on a ship then on various trivial jobs. It was when he set sail again aboard a whaling ship in 1841 and stayed in Marquesas Islands that he found materials for his future novels (Davis 53).
Typee and Omoo, first published in England, were based on these trips. Published in 1849, Melville published the two-volume novel Mardi: and A Voyage Thither, another reflection on his Polynesian adventure (Delbanco 312).Herman Melville married Elizabeth Shaw in 1847 and had four children with her. “Arrowhead,” located in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, became the home for the Melvilles for more than a decade. It was at this place that Melville reached the prime of his career.
He wrote for journals, and his sea stories were a success. He had also started what would be his masterpiece, Moby Dick. He had traversed across Europe and the Holy Land, and in 1857, began a 3-year tour on North American cities, lecturing on his travels and writings (Parker 125–126).In 1863, the family decided to move to New York City; there, he secured a long-term job at New York Custom House (Parker 135), but his literary career was declining.
At the time of his death, he was a forgotten man. The History Behind the Story Herman Melville's first published work, Typee, was a success, but it has more to do with it being a true story rather than the brilliance of the writer. Be that as it may, there were already hints of Melville's depth (Rollyson et al. 106).Melville's exotic sea adventure stories were warmly received by the public and earned big profits. On the other hand, Moby Dick garnered different reviews and did not do well in the market (Cowan 98).
Although some appreciated Moby Dick's complex thematic structure, many regarded it unfathomable. However, his fellow writer and friend Nathaniel Hawthorne's compliment on Moby Dick was greatly appreciated by Melville (Davis 134). It was after receiving Moby Dick's criticisms and becoming weary of writing for profit that Melville wanted to write for his own pleasure.He informed Hawthorne of his dilemma—writing for the public and for himself. This dilemma resulted to a mixture of what pleased the public and him, something that neither appreciated. It was because of this frustration that Melville was able to write Pierre; or, the Ambiguities.
By this time, he was already an established writer. In 1851, he started working on Pierre. Bentley, his English publisher, declined publishing the story, although Melville described it as a romance popular novel. Apparently, the proofs spoke differently of the story.However, Harper & Brothers published Pierre in the United States in 1852.
This was a turning point for Melville; he decided to write short fictions instead of novels (Rollyson et al 125). The story Pierre; Or, the Ambiguities is the story of a young man, Pierre Glendinning, and heir of a manor in upstate New York. Approved by his widowed mother, Pierre was engaged with Lucy Tartan, also belonging to a wealthy family. However, a mysterious woman, Isabel Banford, came along, claiming to be the illegitimate daughter of Pierre's father.
Pierre had been unusually attached to Isabel. Moreover, he took the responsibility of protecting his mother from the secret and assuring that his family's name was not tainted by this knowledge, not to mention his affection for Isabel, by devising a scheme---marrying Isabel. When Pierre's mother learned that they married, he was thrown out of the estate, so the two moved to New York City. Pierre started writing a book to make a living. Meanwhile, Melville's mother had died, and the estate was left to Glen Stanley, who was now Lucy's lover.
However, Lucy came to reside with Isabel and Pierre, the three living off their scant money. Pierre had been having a dilemma as writer. He could not reconcile what he wants to write for himself and what the public wants. A problem comes one after the other, both in his personal and career life. A threat from Glen pushed Pierre to kill him, and he was imprisoned. In the end, Lucy died of shock knowing that Pierre and Isabel are siblings, and the two drank the poison and died (Higgins and Parker 85).