Although a widely shared critical perception is that Herman Melville's first two books, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847), received comparable responses from reviewers in the late 1840s, the antebellum reception of the second novel was anything but a mirror of the response to the first. Not only did Omoo sell fewer copies and receive fifty fewer reviews than Typee, but reviewers also read Omoo through an altered set of interpretive assumptions that turned it, in their view, into a problematic and ultimately disappointing sequel. Part of this shift involved a marked increase in objections to Melville's critique in Omoo of Christian missionaries. A major factor in this response was that reviewers, after having struggled with the question of Typee's authenticity, were inclined to take Omoo as a prima facie work of fiction. Such an assumption meant that, in the logic of antebellum reading formations, Omoo's credibility as social critique was suspect by virtue of its fictional status. This impugning of the novel's authority, in turn, helped pave the way for reviewer responses that questioned the author's own morality. Adding to the problem was the fact that several key reviewers found Omoo to be disappointing because it failed to mark an advance on Typee. Such turns in audience response were significant in repositioning Melville in the antebellum literary marketplace, not only in terms of the public perception of his writings but also in the way in which he conceived his relation to his audience with his next novel, Mardi (1849).
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