Slavery In Herman Melville's Benito Cereno

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Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno” unravels as a tale about a slave revolt, wherein the slaves take control of the San Dominick. Before this occurrence and even after, Captain Delano believes that Benito Cereno is in control of the ship, and is transporting human cargo to be sold and delivered. Melville’s use of irony and metaphors highlight the dichotomy of slavery and freedom. He reverses the patronage from Anglo Saxon control to the enslaved as a pun against the institution of slavery, claiming that slavery is wrong and a faulty institution, and white Europeans are constantly in danger of a slave revolt. Captain Delano is characterized as the overly trusting white man who deems a slave mutiny to be impossible because of his influence from …show more content…
Delano proclaims, “’You are saved: what has cast such a shadow upon you?’” (257) and Cereno answers, “’The negro’” (257). The ambiguity of this dialogue between Delano and Cereno puts the institution of slavery in question to Cereno and to humanity. Cereno has always believed that African Americans were inferior and loyal to their subordination, but he has been proven wrong. He has underestimated the intelligence and ability of enslaved African Americans and what they would do to earn their freedom. The knot, that has been woven and wound so tightly, is now put into question by European whites who experienced the enslaved advance through their revolt without suspicion and discovery until the end. Not only has their intelligence fooled the men on the ship, and Delano, but it goes to show how misleading they can be in order to earn justice and equality for their people. “Benito Cereno” is an argument against slavery because it exposes a deserved ending for those European whites, who have imprisoned and seized the freedom of African American humans. Through Cereno’s discovery of the reality of slavery, Delano and humanity can follow their leader, Babo, to figure out how to undo the traditions of slavery that have been wound up so tightly into one difficult

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