Following the commercial and critical success of Typee, Herman Melville continued his series of South Sea adventure-romances with Omoo. Named after the Polynesian term for a rover, or someone who roams from island to island, Omoo chronicles the tumultuous events aboard a South Sea whaling vessel and is based on Melville's personal experiences as a crew member on a ship sailing the Pacific. From recruiting among the natives for sailors to handling deserters and even mutiny, Melville gives a first-person account of life as a sailor during the nineteenth century filled with colorful characters and vivid descriptions of the far-flung locales of Polynesia.
Narrator Robert Blumenfeld does not sound like a sailor, but like a scholar performing a work by Melville. Blumenfeld’s diffident and professorial tone will make listeners feel as if they are hearing a rare lecture on life along the South Seas in the mid-1800s. Although it lacks the action of Melville’s other works, Omoo excels in reportage concerning every aspect of life for natives, missionaries, and sailors. One can see beyond the romance and caricature provided by other writers, and hone in on real life. Melville is unerringly honest; he critiques what he sees, and takes his humor where he finds it. Omoo is Melville’s closeted take on autobiography. A seasoned sailor, Melville imparts his own calm alertness and wit to protagonist Tomas.
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