Abstract

Mark Twain's No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger (ca. 1905, 1908, 1909) has striking similarities to Herman Melville's The Confidence-Man (1857). These two books mark the evolution of American modernism to an early form of postmodernism—most notably in their similarly complex treatments of novel and romance genres, the nature of identity, disrupted narrative techniques, metafictional elements, and speculation on the relation of fiction and reality. In both works, the presumption of a single unitary self is under assault, along with moral, religious, and existential concepts of selfhood. Melville's and Twain's criticisms of the concept of the single self not only recognize multiple selves in general, but also focus on author/reader mutual identities. Twain's book becomes an ironic indictment of any reader who reads it.

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