An American Quest for Truth in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: Herman Melville’s Mardi: and A Voyage Thither

This article highlights the link between the mid-nineteenth-century context of cultural and political nationalism in the United States and the theme of the quest for truth in Herman Melville’s third book, Mardi: and A Voyage Thither, published in 1849. From this perspective, it examines Melville’s use of the romance genre, the imperialistic nature of the narrative voice and a tendency towards fragmentation in both the work’s structure and themes. All of these elements, it is suggested, serve to make Mardi not only Melville’s dramatic, if flawed, debut in the world of literary creation, but also a work which acts out a very American quest for truth.