# Nachman's Penlimate Conjecture

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Within the short story “Penultimate Conjecture”, Leonard Michael’s protagonist Nachman attends a mathematical conference in Los Angeles. In this conference, he hopes to attend a lecture by Bjorn Lundquist, who has solved the Penultimate Conjecture, a problem Nachman has worked on for decades. In the conference, Nachman meets Chertoff. Chertoff encourages him to act upon his anger towards Lundquist for solving the Penultimate Conjecture when Nachman could not. Throughout the story, Nachman is a character who struggles with his alter ego; consequently, Michaels implies that one’s identity is always at odds with their morality. At first presentation, Nachman seems like the archetypical “Innocent”. The “Innocent” archetype is defined as “being…show more content…
Nachman’s identity is in constant flux as he struggles to be true to himself whilst finding himself prone to Chertoff’s influence. In the midst of the story, Nachman has a dream that he is killing Lundquist and in order to save himself, Lundquist offers Nachman his slave girl, Chantal. Chantal is depicted as a representation of Nachman’s desire to have solved the Penultimate Conjecture himself. Nachman is repelled at the thought of this dream, but when restating it to Chertoff, Chertoff says “ Nachman, you must take the slave girl. - And you must kill Lundquist too” (367) This is representative of Chertoff being Nachman’s alter ego. He is the immoral to Nachman’s righteous. However, Chertoff’s character influences Nachman’s identity. Furthermore, Chertoff references the Iliad. The Iliad is a novel by Homer that,at its heart, is about the instinctive nature of man to fight for what he values. Moreover, The Iliad is violent and gory. The reference to The Iliad is a direct reference to the competitive nature of man, in particular, the nature of Nachman. Nachman attempts to suppress his competitive nature when he attends the conference. However, Chertoff encourages this nature. Chertoff’s encouragement influences Nachman’s