Pierre; or, The Ambiguities is the seventh book by American writer Herman Melville, first published in New York in 1852. The novel, which uses many conventions of Gothic fiction, develops the psychological, sexual, and family tensions between Pierre Glendinning; his widowed mother; Glendinning Stanley, his cousin; Lucy Tartan, his fiancée; and Isabel Banford, who is revealed to be his half-sister. According to scholar Henry A. Murray, in writing Pierre Melville ”purposed to write his spiritual autobiography in the form of a novel” rather than to experiment and incidentally work some personal experience into the novel.
Pierre Glendinning Jr. is the 19-year-old heir to the manor at Saddle Meadows in upstate New York. Pierre is engaged to the blonde Lucy Tartan in a match approved by his domineering mother, who controls the estate since the death of his father, Pierre Sr. When he encounters the dark and mysterious Isabel Banford, he hears from her the claim that she is his half-sister, the illegitimate and orphaned child of his father and a European refugee. Pierre reacts to the story and to his magnetic attraction to Isabel by devising a remarkable scheme to preserve his father's name, spare his mother's grief, and give Isabel her proper share of the estate.
He announces to his mother that he is married; she promptly throws him out of the house. He and Isabel then depart for New York City, accompanied by a disgraced young woman, Delly Ulver...