The God of Nature Or Nature’s God: Herman Melville’s “The Lightening-Rod Man”

Herman Melville’s (1819-1891) “Lightening Rod Man” was, according to the Library of America, “perhaps the most widely read of his stories during his lifetime and the only one that remained in print from its publication until his death.” Published in 1854, the tale describes a meeting between a traveling lightening-rod salesman and his mark, a singular cottage-dweller, during the course of a storm.

In Melville’s day, itinerant salesmen roamed the country-side selling many useful—and not-so-useful—items for which there was no easy geographic access. A lightning-rod salesman sold exactly that, and to a poorly-educated sap the described wonders of these metal magic sticks would have imbued the confidence-man

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