While Typee and Omoo were highly biographical in nature, building upon Melville's real life experiences, Mardi is a work of pure fiction and provides us with first glimmer of the depth of Melville's talent (he will follow Mardi with Moby-Dick two years later in 1851). The novel starts out like a familiar narrative, but an important literary shift occurs when Melville focuses away from the sheer adventure of the story line and provides us with richer character development and deeper symbolism than we have seen in his prior work. Like a progressing chess player no longer content to know how the pieces move on the board, a new type of writing and structure emerges in this work as the countries take on clear symbolism and the character interactions become meaningful. It's our first true look at the style that will grow to full form with the 1851 release of Moby-Dick.
Return to Herman Melville's library.