Norma Kaminsky

David King

Kathleen Sharp

Vered Weiss

Christopher Zepeda


The Antichrist and the Anarchist: Sanity, Social Structure, and Setting in Moby Dick & The Seven Madmen

Vered Weiss
San Francisco State University

We are about to embark on a voyage upon a rough sea of sanity and social boundaries, for I attempt to show that Moby Dick and The Seven Madmen both operate on a twofold parallel dimension, where the monstrous functions as a metaphor for both the personal and communal struggle to (re)create and (re)construct social and moral boundaries. I focus on the ways in which Herman Melville and Roberto Arlt manipulate the 'monstrous Other' in order to shed new light upon the location of social boundaries. I examine how the different settings of the two novels interplay with these two issues, and argue that the setting in both novels is crucial for the reconstruction of social boundaries.

Before I plunge into the depth of the literary comparison, I would like to establish a couple terms I will be referring to in the context of this paper. I wish to reestablish the concept of the 'monstrous' — the natural monster and the human 'monstrous — in relation to social boundaries.

The 'monstrous' I refer to is the social aspect of the combination of the Freudian concept of the uncanny, which is the unresolved anxiety produced by confronting ambiguous things that ought to have been concealed, and the Lacanian Other as the signifier of that which constitutes our 'self' in relation to society (Freud, Lacan). These compel the reader to re-think the concept of the human, in relation to the 'self' as well as in relation to society. The Lacanian Other is the evolvement of the mirror stage when in "this moment in which the mirror stage comes to an end inaugurates by the identification with the imago of the counterpart and the drama of primordial jealousy [ . . .] the dialectic that will henceforth link the I to socially elaborated situations" (Lacan 444). The 'monstrous' confronts the reader with two dichotomies: the human vs. inhuman alongside the social vs. the a-social or anti-social. As opposed to the 'monstrous', which is located within the self— or more precisely on the border between the self and the Other — the monster is the Other, and is located outside of the self. The main characteristics of the monster are its size, aesthetics, and the fear factor 1. I examine the connections between these two concepts in the two texts within the context of sanity and social structure. Thus, the discussion I propose is located within the context of reconstruction of social boundaries.

While in The Seven Madmen the monstrous is the 'human monstrous', the monstrous in Moby Dick is constantly utilized in the description of whales, and specifically Moby Dick. The difference between the monster in Moby Dick and the monstrous in The Seven Madmen is precisely that in Moby Dick there is a monster, of a certain kind, which lurks in the water, while the monstrous in The Seven Madmen is the 'human monstrous', and is everywhere. Nonetheless, the concept itself and its literary ramifications are linked to the core of the concept as that which is fearful mostly for the fact it ought to have remained concealed: the whale ought to have been concealed under fathoms of water, and the 'human monstrous' ought to have been kept under strict social restrictions. As Gloria Guzman noted, this aspect of concealment is at the heart of Arlt's work (45), for the insane mark the socially accepted and unaccepted, and therefore it reestablishes the boundaries of society.

The monstrous in both novels simultaneously represents the boundaries of the socially accepted, and their transgression. Whether it is the 'Ship of Fools' searching for the white whale, or the endless wanderings of the seven madmen through the streets of Buenos Aires trying to form a revolution, the metaphoric representation of the communal quest for the reconstruction of social boundaries, alongside the search for the individual's place within the social, is depicted through the monstrous Other. Thus the location, or setting of this metaphoric quest and the monstrous Other within it are crucial for the respective position of the individual in relation to social boundaries. The location of the social boundaries for the forming middle class is represented through these novels, for it is the act of conceptualizing the boundaries, which is the act of the formation and emergence of this new social entity. The novels offer other options of existence, perverse, and transgressive, which by comparison and contradiction construct the safe haven of the middle class (Guzman 50).

The need for the reconstruction of social boundaries is evident in The Seven Madmen from the very onset, as Guzman notes, once Arlt proclaimed his characters as insane, he establishes a world that alienates these characters, he isolates them from the socially accepted, and the search for truth commences (46). This 'truth' could be the demand for the reconsideration of the socially accepted i.e. moral convictions that prohibit and exclude certain behavior, and a quest for utopian social structure. In a similar act, by placing the crew of the Pequod on the ship in the middle of the ocean, Melville isolates the characters as they hunt for the whale, and as we shall see, the whale can be read as a metaphor for the truth, sanity, or utopia.

The location of social boundaries is connected to the location of the characters within the narrative (i.e., the setting). Where society establishes its boundaries is indicative of its conceptualization of value structures. For instance, when the social apparatus places the poor, the sick, the criminal, and mad, all as one social group in an asylum under surveillance, one might incur the location of the boundaries of the socially accepted to be located along those criteria. Where the author places the characters reveals similar conceptualization within the literary work.

While Moby Dick is situated in the oceanic wilderness, miles from any city or social structure, The Seven Madmen's scenery is much more urban at the center of the Buenos Aires' forming metropolis. This inversion of the fundamental social elements in the setting highlights the similarities in the inherent quest trope in both novels: whether it is in the middle of the ocean, or in the gut of the city, the human subject searches for meaning that will form moral and social boundaries.

The Seven Madmen is located in Buenos Aires, which provides the setting for the individual and communal quest for social boundaries. The infernal city2 where el autor plantea una visión de hombre y de mundo que revela la impotencia del individuo frente a una sociedad burguesa que lo oprime y aniquila su esencia the author establishes a vision of man and the world that reveals the impotence of the individual confronting a bourgeois society that oppresses and destroys his essence (Santa 460), offers a proliferation of human monstrosities that are the results of various social situations and depravities. The various 'kinds' of human monstrosities, insanities or social transgressions are linked to specific places within the social apparatus, and therefore are represented in respective locations in the setting of the novel. For instance, when Erdosain's wife is about to leave him, he is in his home and reflects a certain 'kind' of 'human monstrous': for the purpose of this essay, this will be 'the domestic monstrous'. The 'domestic monstrous' is the result of years of abuse (TSM 51), and lurks underneath the surface of the home, and therefore is represented inside the home. The Melancholy Thug represents a different kind of monstrous, a more socially based travesty, and therefore his monstrous insanity is represented in the streets, for the streets are where one might locate the origin of his monstrosity, and its representation (TSM 40-1). This 'urban monstrous' is the result of the harsh street life, and therefore the scene that introduces the Thug's character is located in the street. Another kind of monstrous insanity is the 'willful insanity', which is the attempt to transgress in order to comprehend the social, as when Erdosain leaps to the tree in his attempt to become free. The last kind of insanity is called the Innocent Monster, and it refers to the Astrologer's insane utopist time, when lo ideal seria despertar en muchos hombres esta ferocidad jovial e ingenua. A nosotros nos toca inaugurar la era del Monstruo Inocente (LSL 329) the ideal would be to arouse this carefree, naive ferocity in as many men as possible. It's our job to usher in the age of the Innocent Monster (TSM 236). The Astrologer represents a horrifying monstrous, for he is the representation of the human genius without morality.

These 'types' of madness are parallel to the four types of madness Foucault presents in Stultifera Navis: madness by romantic identification, madness of vain presumption, madness of just punishment, and the departure of passion. The conclusion Foucault reaches in Madness & Civilization is that there is an inherent inter-dependability between society and madness. Just as the madman is (re)constructed and (re)defined by the social apparatus, social boundaries are reestablished by redefinition of the representations of the insane.

Foucault's discussion of the unique connection between madness and water is intriguing in relation to Moby Dick. The special curing powers the water has over the mad were allegedly one of the reasons they were shipped out of Paris (MC 276). Nonetheless, as opposed to the confined madman to whom Foucault relates the monster, mad or 'human monstrous' in both texts are unconfined 3. From the 'loose fish' that is the monster in Moby Dick, to the 'human monstrous' in The Seven Madmen, the monstrous manifestations are not incarcerated.

The 'human monstrous' in The Seven Madmen is located everywhere and inside many of the characters: from Haffner The Melancholy Thug, through the ingenious monstrosity of the Astrologer who devices the brothel-sponsored revolution, to the representation of Nature as monstrous, the monstrous in The Seven Madmen is as ubiquitous as Moby Dick. The first 'human monstrous' is delivered through the narrator's representation of Erdosain's thoughts after the Thug tells him about the seventeen-year-old blind and pregnant prostitute who ocurren las ideas mas feroces (LSL 119) brings out the most savage fantasies in the Thug's mind (TSM 41). The chapter Las Opiniones del Rufián Melancólico (LSL 117) Opinions of the Melancholy Thug (TSM 34) ends with Erdosain cruzo pensativo a la plataforma donde salían . . . para Buenos Aires. Indudablemente, Haffner era un monstruo deep in thought. . .cross[ing] over to the platform for Buenos Aires thinking: No doubt about it, Haffner was a monster (TSM 42). Yet, the 'human monstrous' does not reside only in the Other, outside Erdosain, and when his wife leaves him he relates to the algo monstruosamente (LSL 51) something monstrous (TSM 135), which will one day explode within him due to years of abuse, and will make him en otro hombre (LSL 135) a different man (TSM 51). This shift in the location of the monstrous from the Other to the self is reflected not only in the transference of the monstrous itself, but in the location change of the protagonist himself.

This first encounter with the monstrous took place outside the city and was located outside the self in the Other represented by the Melancholy Thug; the second appearance of the monstrous is within the city inside the home of the protagonist, and now the monstrous is lurking within him, hidden under years of abuse, waiting to erupt. As Erdosain is wallowing in his bed after his wife leaves him, his grief transforms him until:

Sentía que no era ya un hombre [. . .] sino algo mas inhumano [. . .] un monstruo enroscado en si mismo en el negro vientre de la pieza [. . . ] Los muros crecían, se elevaban sus hiladas de ladrillos, y nuevas cataratas de tinieblas caían a ese cubo donde él yacía enroscado y palpitante como un caracol en une profundidad oceánica. No podía reconocerse [. . .] dudaba que él fuera Augusto Remo Erdosain. (LSL 139)
He felt he was no longer a man [. . . ] but something far more inhuman [. . . ] a monster-like creature curled up on itself in the black belly of the room. . .The rows of bricks on in the walls grew higher and higher, while fresh outpourings of darkness crushed sown into the hole where he lay curled up and throbbing, like a shell in the ocean depth. He did not know himself [. . .] he could not believe he was Augusto Remo Erdosain. (TSM 55)
Thus, he is transformed into the monster within his own room, inside his home, in the bed in which he sought comfort in the arms of a wife, until he feels as if he is drowning in an ocean. The move from the comfort of the home to the terrifying endless darkness of the sea is metaphoric of the location and relocation of the monstrous. The monstrous is 'supposed' to be located in the vast unknown abyss. Thus when Erdosain feels he is becoming the monstrous, he relocates his 'self' and plunges his soul into the ocean. The move from the perception of the self as monstrous, to the basic questioning of the self as such, is the inherent connection between the monstrous and the insane. The moment Erdosain recognizes himself as monstrous, he begins to question his sanity, and this question will gain force as the novel proceeds.

The next encounter with the monstrous presents the questionable sanity and monstrosity of the seven madmen though the allusion to Shakespeare's Hamlet:

Matarlo o no matarlo? [. . .] De dónde habrán salido tantos monstruos? Yo mismo estoy descentrado, no soy el que soy, y, sin embargo, algo necesito hacer para tener conciencia de mi existencia, para afirmarla [. . .] Y para colmo, la ciega embarazada. Qué bestia! (LSL 154-6)
To kill him or not to kill him? [. . .] Where can all these monsters have sprung from?... I'm not at the center of my being either, I am not who I am, and yet I need to do something to prove my existence, to affirm it [. . .] And to top it all, the pregnant blind girl. What a monster! (TSM 70-2)
This presents the intricate connection between the 'human monstrous' and questions of sanity. The echoes of the Shakespearean characters loom in the darkness of this soliloquy, as if to certify the madness within Erdosain. Erdosain experiences this internal monologue as he is about to travel to the Astrologer's house. He is torn by his bewildering sense of the city, which on one hand produces a sense of anguish in him; yet, at the same time holds a promise of great happiness. The need he feels to tear himself from the socially accepted is endurable, and he is desolate and lonely in the big city:
No había luna. Los arcos voltaicos lucí an entre las áreas enramadas de las bocacalles. De alguna esquina salían los sones de un piano y a medida que caminaba, su corazón se empequeñecía más, oprimido por la angustia que le producía el espectáculo de la felicidad que adivinaba tras de los muros de aquellas casas refrescadas por las sombras, y frente a cuyas puertas cocheras se hallaba un automóvil. (LSL 156)
It was a moonless night. Street-lamps shone among the leafy branches at the street-corners. The sounds of a piano drifted from one of the houses, and as he walked on, Erdosain could sense his heart shriveling still further, oppressed once more by a sense of anguish at this glimpse of happiness behind the walls of houses cooled by the shade, each with its car drawn up outside the garage. (TSM 72)
The city holds the possibility of happiness, yet not for him. Since he perceives himself as a monster, suburbia is the home of the Other for him. Thus, in an inversion of the 'healthy' construction of the 'self' as a part of society, Erdosain constructs his self as monstrous, and therefore perceives the socially accepted as horrifying, as the cause of his anguish. This anguish is elaborated upon in the second chapter in the subchapter Trabajo de la Angustia The Work of Anguish. The monstrous is presented through the narrator's representation of Erdosain's ongoing insomniac monologue that is the result of social transgression:

Usted siente que va cortando una tras otra las amarras que lo ataban a la civilización, que va a entrar en el oscuro mundo de la barbarie, que perderá el timón [. . .] En realidad, usted quisilla vivir como los demás, ser honrado como los demás, tener un hogar, una mujer, asomarse a la ventana para mirar los transeúntes que pasan, y sin embargo, ya no hay una sola célula de su organismo que no esté impregnada de la fatalidad que encierran esas palabras: tengo que matarlo. . .Usted sabe que lleva en su interior un monstruo que en cualquier momento se desatará y no sabe cómo. Un monstruo! [. . .] Ah, no cometa nunca un crimen! (LSL 187-8)
You feel you're cutting your links with society one by one, that you're plunging into a shadowy world of savagery, that you've lost all sense of direction [. . .] In fact, you want to live like everyone else does, to have a home, a wife, to look out of your window at the passers-by, and yet there is not a single cell of your body left that isn't marked with the fatal message contained in those words "I have to kill him". . .You know you have a monster inside that can break loose at any moment, and you don't know which way it will leap. A monster! [. . .] Ah, don't commit a crime! (TSM 103-4)
Once again the three issues of sanity, location and social boundaries are inseparably intertwined, and are therefore presented conjointly. The 'human monstrous' is thus the transgression against society, and the transgression against the inherent requirement to conform, to be a part of the socially accepted, and the fear of the lack of control over that monstrous, lead to the exclusion from the social. This cutting away from the social thread harbors the fearful insanity, yet it also pertains to the acts that allow the bliss of freedom from the chains of the social apparatus.

In the chapter entitled Arriba del árbol (LSL 167) Up the Tree (TSM 81) Erdosain attempts to free himself from the shackles of the social apparatus, to liberate his tormented mind by a return to nature. As Erdosain is walking through the city-streets, he thinks of his wife and ponders that Esto es triste como el desierto (LSL 167) this is as sad as a desert (TSM 82), then some pleasant scent leads him to think A pesar de todo necesario injertar una alegría en al vida (LSL 168) in spite of everything, life must be filled with joy TSM 82), and he Quisilla violar. . .el sentido común (LSL 170) wants to violate common sense (TSM 85). His need for transgression finds an outlet as he leaps into the tree. Through this relocation of his body, from the socially accepted place on the pavement to the tree, he hopes to achieve his peace of mind. Once his body dwells in the realm of Rousseau or Defoe, he hopes his mind will follow in the opposite direction, till he will be able to reenter the socially accepted. Yet, to consciously and logically decide to become mad is impossible, one has to 'loose his mind' and not simply 'misplace it'. This attempt to artificially relocate his body and become mad fails, y la misma tristeza ésta en él. No es suficiente haber a violado el sentido común para sentirse feliz (LSL 171) and still he feels desolate. He knows now that it is not enough to violate common sense to feel happy (TSM 85). The incident is devastating, and by the end of the first chapter, Erdosain Está vencido. Es un desgraciado (LSL 171) is vanquished. A broken man (TSM 85). Thus the 'noble savage' cannot be in the city, not because the concept requires nature; rather, the concept itself is a mistake, since the lack of social boundaries is not the key for happiness. The whole novel will lead to this conclusion, as the location of the monstrous, the mad and the socially unaccepted in The Seven Madmen is everywhere, in the city, in nature, in the Other, and inside the self.

While in The Seven Madmen, the monstrous is reflected through a variety of characters and even in nature, the monstrous in Moby Dick is consistently connected to the whale. Thus, there is a difference between the monster, and the monstrous. The monster is located in the vast ocean, outside the self; yet, it is hidden under fathoms of water, and eruption of the monster causes the eruption of the monstrous within man. The four Foucaultdian 'kinds' of mad or monstrous will merge into the two main characters, and the monster in Moby Dick. The 'madness of vain presumption' can be located in both Ahab's and Ishmael's characters, as the former believes that although he perceives Moby Dick as a force of nature and an evil entity, he will vanquish it; the latter perceives his literary endeavor as a form of elevation, as he reflects one often hears of writes that rise and swell with their subject. . .unconsciously my chirography expanse into placard capitals. Give me a condor's quill! Give me Vesuvius' crater for an inkstand! (MD 432). Albeit in a sarcastic tone, it is evident that Ishmael does receive a sense of exaltation from his process of narration. This moment of elevation occurs after Ishmael reminisces about the time he was inside a whale; or at least as close as possible to that— he was inside the skeleton of a whale— and he discusses the fossilized bone relic of a whale. These moments of hubris take place when he locates himself in the monster, and therefore is entitled to some of its magnitude. The setting of the scene sets his frame of mind.

The concept of 'madness of just punishment' is represented through the masochistic madness of Ahab's seclusion and delusion, as he spends most of his time in his cabin, or strolling alone on the deck, and his infliction is the drive that propels the voyage. The most intriguing result of the application of the four categories Foucault suggested is the complete lack of the concepts of 'madness by romantic identification', and the 'departure of passion' in relation to a feminine or human subject. The narrative offers a displacement of all passionate or pseudo-romantic madness onto the whale. Ishmael's 'willful insanity' is his choice to go whale hunting, and if on board the Foucaultdian 'ship of fools' there are four 'typical' madmen; on board the Pequod all pertain the 'human monstrous' within, while the monster is out in the sea.

The monster is first mentioned in the first chapter as the main motivation for Ishmael's interest in the voyage, the second reason given is the sea, and immediately follows the social reason:

Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk [. . .] With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it - would they let me - since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in. (MD 21)
When one breaks down the entangled reasoning for his interest in whale hunting, one finds that Ishmael is providing an explanation that incorporates three reasons: the monster, its location, and the social. These three are so intertwined, it is almost impossible to tell them apart as he goes back and forth between them. The passage offers the whale as a reason for Ishmael's interest, and immediately after that, its location, and the two of them are connected to the social. He is intrigued by the monster, the sea, and the interaction of the two upon the social. The idea is that the location of monster provides a special opportunity for Ishmael to test his social skills. Place a bunch of men onboard a ship, in the midst of the ocean, and send them on a whale hunt, and you are bound to detect the social structures as if in a laboratory. Nonetheless, this 'social experiment' is conducted in a specific isolated environment, where Captain Ahab is the dictator and his officers are proclaimed from the beginning, as Such a crew, so officered, seemed specially picked and packed by some infernal fatality to help him to his monomaniac revenge (MD 188). Moreover, although their encounters with other ships may be metaphorically perceived as nations encountering other nations (and indeed they come across many foreign ships) their social existence is mostly an isolated one.

Thus, the Pequod sets off to where the social apparatus does not prevail, to where Ahab is the sole dictator. The Pequod is searching for the white what, an abomination, a monster and the only force capable of ending Ahab's dictatorship. The location of the monster is crucial as it reconfigures the location of the socially accepted. The monster in Moby Dick is located as far from society as possible, under the water, which represents the abyss of the unconscious. The fear of the return of the repressed is the fear of the whale, and vise versa. The brave venture into the ocean where the monster resides to challenge the boundaries of the mind and of the body: the boundaries of the self and the social.

The personal revenge Ahab seeks propels the Pequod as a community. In the Chapter entitled Moby Dick we learn more of the particular monster that is the cause and inspiration of this voyage and novel, and its intricate connections to questions of sanity within the communal: I, Ishmael, was one of that crew [. . .] A wild, mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab's quenchless feud seemed mine [. . .] I learned the history of that murderous monster against whom I and all the others had taken our oaths of violence and revenge (MD 180). The reason given for the quest is the whales hunt, yet it is propelled by the connection between the men, the social bond. The core of the quest is— as Ishmael indicated in the first chapter— the bond between the men, what brings them all together to the middle of the ocean, sharing one cause: is a vengeful killing.

This fixation on a vengeful killing echoes Erdosain's thoughts regarding Barsut. Just as Erdosain and Barsut are caught in a sick knot, the relationship between Ahab and Moby Dick dwells in unhealthy realms that present the whale as a cause for Ahab's monomania. After Ahab was mutilated by Moby Dick, he perceives himself as the 'human monstrous', and therefore he shuns from human contact:

It is not probable that this monomania in him took its instant rise at the precise time of his bodily dismemberment. Then, in darting at the monster, knife in hand, he had but given loose to a sudden, passionate, corporal animosity; and when he received the stroke that tore him, he probably but felt the agonizing bodily laceration, but nothing more. Yet, when by this collision forced to turn towards home, and for long months of days and weeks, Ahab and anguish lay stretched together in one hammock, rounding in mid winter that dreary, howling Patagonian Cape; then it was, that his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another; and so interfusing, made him mad. That it was only then, on the homeward voyage, after the encounter, that the final monomania seized him, seems all but certain from the fact that, at intervals during the passage, he was a raving lunatic [. . .] Yet without power to kill, or change, or shun the fact; he likewise knew that to mankind he did now long dissemble; in some sort, did still. (MD 186)
Thus, in both novels the 'human monstrous' is created, bred and born from another monster, just as Ahab gives birth to his monstrosity and madness, Erdosain's problematic sense of self was the result of his father's monstrous abuse, and his sense of his own monstrosity causes his anguish, which then leads to his exclusion from the social thread. Once the monster tore Ahab, the monstrous was born in him, as did the abuse that was inflicted upon Erdosain. Just as Erdosain wallowed in his bed drowning in his anguish, so did Ahab suffer in his hammock, and both result to kill in order to achieve a final transgression, hoping this will reinforce their sense of humanity. The social thread has been severed, and they seek out the manner by which to either return to society, or completely tear away from the social thread.

The whale has been read as almost any and everything by now: from God to Devil and back again4 , and as Laurence Buell states, since it is not until a third of the book is over does an encounter with even an ordinary whale take place. During this long buildup, the repetitous quality of the cetology chapters and of Ishmael's meditations in general, combined with the fundamental fact of Moby Dick's absence, reinforce the plausibility of the frequent hints that the quest is empty of meaning except for what is read into it (Buell 63). I subscribe to the reading of the whale as a utopian social structure.

One of the deeper connecting threads between the novels lies in the reading of the utopian elements in the texts. Kirsten Silva Gruesz presents the connections between the Americas in the context of the utopian origins of the Americas (Gruesz 57). She alludes to Goldman's engrossing differentiation between North and Latin America regarding the heteroglossia of the text5 that connects to Guzman's Bakhtinian reading of The Seven Madmen (Guzman 59- 62). These readings lead to reading Melville not so much as a progenitor or urtext, but as a floating signifier of the US national canon (Gruesz 57). The perception of America as utopian is evident in relation to both texts, as Guzman notes in her introduction to The Seven Madmen América viene a ocupar el lugar de al utopía y se reitera la visión maravillosa de la vida ideal America will occupy the place of utopia, and will entertain the vision of the marvel of the ideal life (Guzman 24). Both novels can be read as the quest for the ultimate utopian social structure: Remo Erdosain participates in what he suspects might be a revolution that will result in a new social structure in Argentina, and both Captain Ahab and Ishmael are seeking their completion through their restoration. The Pequod seems to be lost at sea, far from any social structure, yet carries the social structure on board, and Erdosain drifts through the streets of Buenos Aires in search of his place within the social tapestry. Arlt presents a deconstruction of images. . .in terms of the conservative Catholic nation [that] reveals an ideology aliened with the working classes, [he] openly and directly attacks theosophical doctrine, finding it sectarian and associated with oligarchic thought (Banga 7). Both texts capture simultaneously the personal struggle for the reconstruction of social boundaries alongside the communal endeavor, thus, they reflect the whole of the Americas.

Thus the quest for the utopian social structure connects the Americas 6. Furthermore, if by providing an embedded habitat with primordial malleability, the ocean evokes the danger of their potential reality, the infinite possibilities existing beyond the impotent safeguard of the waster's surface. As exhibited, for instance, through Thomas More's sociopolitical treatise, Utopia (1516), [and] the whaler, [is] a symbol of United States enterprise during the nineteenth century (Barrenechea 64-5), the personal and the communal are interchangeable. Thus, the oceanic location of the novel and its utopian allusions, once reimbursed with the presence of the monster, relocate the search for the utopist social structure upon the personal and communal axes. Ahab's personal quest for revenge becomes the crew's odyssey; the quest is simultaneously for the personal and communal boundaries.

The two texts end in catastrophe: Moby Dick ends with the whole ship wrecked after the White Whale swims apocalyptically into the book and brings it to an abrupt but tidy close at the narrative level (Buell 67), and The Seven Madmen with Barsut's mock-death, and the 'secret society' led by Astrologer whose last statement is that Somos descubridores que no saben sino en conjunto hacia donde (LSL 336) we're discoverers who have only a vague idea of the direction we're heading in. (TSM 242). Both Erdosain and Ishmael survive their trials and tribulations, only to find they have to reconstruct a society in which they might reestablish their selves. For Erdosain it is a social structure; for Ishmael it is another ship.

Moby Dick and The Seven Madmen are multilayered novels, which present the narrative of the individual's quest for his place within society, alongside the larger social reconfiguration of social boundaries. The settings of the texts present the quest narrative, which entails social critique since the location of the social boundaries creates problematic social structures that suffocate, or drown the individual. The moral questions which lurk underneath the calm sea around America are presented by the wanderings of the seven madmen, circumnavigation of the Pequod, as do the circumlocution of Moby Dick. The 'ship of fools' that might have landed on the shores of Utopia is by now the sinking the American continent. The 'madmen' who lead the 'revolution' have absolutely no idea where their heading, and the 'ideal' that was America, requires a realistic sequel.


1 The New Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary defines monstrous as: 1. frightful or hideous, esp. in appearance; extremely ugly. 2. shocking or revolting; outrageous monstrous cruelty. 3. extraordinarily great; huge; immense. The thesaurus section presents these terms under monstrous: 1. huge, great, large, tremendous, gigantic, monster, prodigious, enormous, immense, vast, stupendous, colossal. 2. frightful, hideous, revolting, shocking, repulsive, horrible, atrocious, terrible, dreadful, horrendous.
2 Andres Rivera noted not only on the infernal qualities of Arlt's Buenos Aires, but also on the Shakespearian connections, to which I will relate later when I discuss the allusion to Hamlet: en las páginas que Arlt escribo estaba ese viejo que lanza, en la geografía de un país enfermo, una frase que Shakespeare no despreciaría: <>La vitta e denaro, strunsso (Roberto Arlt, Vidente. Sección Especial, Homenaje a Roberto Arlt. Alba de América: Revista Literaria. Instituto Literario Y Cultural Hispánico. Estados Unidos de América. 2004.(459).
3 The one exception to the lack of confinement in The Seven Madmen is when Ergueta is in the asylum, and even then, the scene is of ultimate liberation, rather than confinement. As opposed to the Black House, the location of the inner self, where Erdosain is confined and tortured, in the asylum Ergueta feels free. When Erdosain visits the Espila family, socially accepted though poor, he repels Elena, and repels the convictions of gratitude as he wishes they all croak and leave him in peace (184). Erdosain wishes to cut himself from the social thread.
4 Despite all the heterodoxy of opinion on Moby-Dick, few critics doubt that Moby Dick is a god. [4] H. Bruce Franklin, The Wake of the Gods: Melville's Mythology (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1963), p. 61. Taken literally, that critical statement seems bizarre, especially in light of studies, during the two decades since it was made, that have placed much emphasis on how the world of Moby- Dick communicates to the reader through the filter of Ishmael's quandaries as both neophyte whaleman and retrospective narrator as to whether the White Whale is simply a naturalistic whale or whether he is a creature of supernatural properties. [5] Robert M. Greenberg, The Three-Day Chase: Multiplicity and Coherence in Moby-Dick, ESQ 29 (1983):91. The book can even be read as a gigantic spoof of the sacred imagination from animism (Ishmael measuring the whale's skeleton in the Arsacides in the face of horrified priestly opposition) to the Bible itself (the credibility of the Book of Jonah uproariously sabotaged in Chapter 83 under the guise of defense) (Buell 54).
5 Gruesz, Kirsten Silva. Utopía Latina: The Ordinary Seaman in extraordinary times. Modern Fiction Studies. Purdue Univ. West Lafayette, IN Baltimore, MD. 49:1. p.54-83. Spring 2003.
6 The Americas have been read not only as the Hegelian end of historical progress-a dominant interpretation in North America-but as the locus of perfected prophecy, as the site of the world's apocalyptic end. Walter Mignolo is but the latest in a long line of Latin American intellectuals to remind us that the early European encounter with the New World is coeval with the birth of Europe's utopian tradition, even as the colonial process set off unprecedented extremes of violence and cruelty (Gruesz 60).

Works Cited

Arlt, Roberto. Los Siete Locos. Compañía General Fabril Editora S.A. Buenos
        Aires. 1968.

Arlt, Roberto. The Seven Madmen. Trans. Nick Caistor. UNESCO. GB. 1998.

Banga, Fabián Marcelo. Brujos, espiritistas y vanguardistas: La representacion del
        esoterismo y el espiritualismo en las obras de Roberto Arlt, Vicente Huidobro y
        Ramon del Valle-Inclan.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A:
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Barrenechea, Antonio. Telluric monstrosity in the Americas: The encyclopedic
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Barrenechea, Antonio. Salvaging Melville's America: Baroque Revision in Terra
Americas' Worlds and the World's Americas. Ed Amaryll
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Buell, Lawrence. Moby-Dick as Sacred Text. New essays on Moby-Dick.
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Foucault, Michel. A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Madness and
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Freud, Sigmund. The Uncanny. Literary Theory an Anthology. Ed. Julie
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Gruesz, Kirsten Silva. Utopía Latina: The Ordinary Seaman in extraordinary times
        Modern Fiction Studies. Purdue Univ. West Lafayette, IN
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Lacan, Jacque. The Mirror Stage. Literary Theory an Anthology. Ed.
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Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Penguin Popular Classics. 1994.

Pratt, Mary Louise. Linguistic Utopias. The Linguistics of Writing:
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Rivera, Andres. Roberto Arlt, Vidente. Alba de América: Revista
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Santa, Eugenia R. La Mirada del Extranjero en Dos Cuentos de El Criador de
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The New Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language. Random
        House Value Publishing. 1997.

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