Herman Melville wrote the story Benito Cereno. It is a fictitious account of the Spanish slave ship revolt led by Don Benito Cereno (Melville). The novel was originally published in three parts but was later expanded to incorporate a short story. The narrator makes an oblique statement on contemporary views and stereotypes of black people in America, which contributed to the development of a civil war. In our debate, we will look at certain elements of characterization and point of view, with a special emphasis on Delano. Furthermore, a sense of what the reader knows from the narrator, as well as a definition of how the character perceives the other. The story has its basis on historical content. Delano was a real sea captain. Besides, a writer and much of Melville story got inspiration from him. Delano met a Spanish vessel seized by slaves. However, the historical Delano never got fooled as compared to his colleague in Melville story (Melville). Uncertainty on slavery cemented rejection during the period. Melville chooses to recount the story through Delano’s point of view. Delano has a narrow viewpoint on issues despite appearing as if he is keen on consideration of his environment and he makes serious faults almost in all instances. It is evident how Delano wants to assert that he comprehends human nature: an example in the quote “singularly distrustful good nature,” his modesty to allege “malign evil in man (Melville).” Suddenly, the author begins to question on whether Delano’s outlook on the human is valid given “a view of what humanity is capable (Melville).” At first, the audience gets inclined towards sympathizing with Delano because he is offering aid to a sea-vessel that is in distress. However, the scenario changes as the viewpoint divert when the readers began noticing the challenge Delano has in conceding to the reality of the circumstance. Delano’s perspective would regularly get challenged, and the engagement between the truth and his conceptions aboard then San Dominik illustrate a major theme of the tale (Melville).
The numerous misunderstanding that Delano demonstrates could get traced back to the religious blunders. Delano is dominantly inclined to Protestant suspicions fearing the Catholic interiorities that bring him on many events such as the existence of slavery and slave mutiny (Sundquist). Furthermore, the religious ideologies that he has apparently motivate the prejudice he exhibits. An example is the name of the ship San Dominik that indicates the founder of the monastic order, Saint Dominik (Melville). In light to the viewpoint presented by the author, it can serve as a reminder to the readers of another masterpiece done by Melville, Moby-Dick of Ishmael, whose religious preconceptions get confronted. Despite that, Ishmael learns how to conquer his beliefs and maintain a bond with them. On the contrary, Delano’s religious inclinations separate him from the reality, both the slaves and Cereno, and he continuously views slaves as lesser of human beings (Sundquist). On the same note, Delano views Babo as a hero since after witnessing the cruelty of the Spanish and later on sees Babo, he gets the reassurance that all is well and the outrage is gone.
In conclusion, the whole story unfolds in an opposite way far from the expected similar to a detective story. The audience is easily able to comprehend and come up with the truth before the detectives. The story can in some way get related to a dramatic irony. Delano’s well-intentioned optimism, unfortunately, leads to his demise on top of the Captain who is at the helm.
Melville, Herman. Bartleby-Benito Cereno. Giunti Editore, 2010.
Sundquist, Eric J. “Benito Cereno and New World Slavery.” Reconstructing American Literary History (1986): 93-122.