Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Brady Harrison

Commitee Members

Bob Baker, Tobin Shearer


Herman Melville, Mardi, Moby Dick, Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, Mormonism


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Literature in English, North America | Mormon Studies


While Melville’s Mardi has long remained a puzzle to both readers and critics, scholars agree that his third novel marked a significant turning point in his writing career. It is with Mardi that Meville realized the novel as a form suited to grapple the various philosophical and religious questions he would famously explore in his following book, Moby Dick. Although scholars have already pinpointed many various sources for Mardi, this thesis examines the heretofore overlooked connections between Melville’s third book and the esoteric volume of American scripture, the Book of Mormon.

The first chapter of this thesis examines some of the shared narrative structures in the opening chapters of both Mardi and the Book of Mormon, including similar allegorical imagery. The chapter also shows how the openings of both Mardi and the Book of Mormon are structured as a sort of “Old Testament in reverse.” Chapter two takes an in-depth look at the teachings and theology of important character named Alma the Prophet from Mardi—apparently modeled on a character of the same name whose life and teachings make up one-third of Book of Mormon. Chapter three compares and contrasts the climactic scenes from Mardi and the Book of Mormon, both of which employ massive volcanic upheavals immediately followed by depictions of a Christian utopia. The thesis concludes with a look at how the Book of Mormon may have continued to influence Melville after Mardi, including how some of its themes and key phrases seem to make an appearance in Moby Dick.



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