As a preface to Mardi, Melville wrote somewhat ironically that his first two books were nonfiction but disbelieved; by the same pattern he hoped the fiction book would be accepted as fact.
The voyage from island to island echoes Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, especially the last two books. According to scholar Newton Arvin, "The praise of eating and drinking is highly Rabelaisian in intention, and so in general is all the satire on bigotry, dogmatism, and pedantry. Taji and his friends wandering about on the island of Maramma, which stands for ecclesiastical tyranny and dogmatism, are bound to recall Pantagruel and his companions wandering among the superstitious inhabitants of Papimany; and the pedantic, pseudo-philosophi of Melville's Doxodox is surely, for a reader of Rabelais, an echo of the style of Master Janotus de Bragmardo holding forth polysyllabically to Gargantua in Book I." Arvin also recognizes the influence of Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, "there is something very Swiftian in Melville's Hooloomooloo, the Isle of Cripples, the inhabitants of which are all twisted and deformed, and whose shapeless king is horrified at the straight, strong figures of his visitors from over sea."...
Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 - September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet of the American Renaissance period. His best known works include Typee (1846), a romantic account of his experiences in Polynesian life, and his whaling novel Moby-Dick (1851). His work was almost forgotten during his last thirty years. His writing draws on his experience at sea as a common sailor, exploration of literature and philosophy, and engagement in the contradictions of American society in a period of rapid change. He developed a complex, baroque style: the vocabulary is rich and original, a strong sense of rhythm infuses the elaborate sentences, the imagery is often mystical or ironic, and the abundance of allusion extends to Scripture, myth, philosophy, literature, and the visual arts.
Born in New York City as the third child of a merchant in French dry goods, Melville's formal education ended abruptly after his father died in 1832, leaving the family in financial straits. Melville briefly became a schoolteacher before he took to sea in 1839 as a common sailor on a merchant ship. In 1840 he signed aboard the whaler Acushnet for his first whaling voyage, but jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands. After further adventures, he returned to Boston in 1844. His first book, Typee (1845), a highly romanticized account of his life among Polynesians, became such a best-seller that he worked up a sequel, Omoo (1847). These successes encouraged him to marry Elizabeth Shaw, of a prominent Boston family, but were hard to sustain. His first novel not based on his own experiences, Mardi (1849), is a sea narrative that develops into a philosophical allegory, but was not well received.
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About the Author
Date of Birth:August 1, 1819
Date of Death:September 28, 1891
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Place of Death:New York, New York
Education:Attended the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, until age 15