Slavery In Herman Melville's Benito Cereno

Improved Essays
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

Related Documents

  • Great Essays

    Although Delano claims he himself is not racist, his prejudiced viewpoint on the slaves blinds him from the truth about the ship and sets the tone for the novella’s conflict. In Othello, Othello is portrayed as an outsider in society partly because of his race, which in turn causes him self-doubt. This allows the antagonist of Iago to capitalize on this insecurity of Othello’s and use it to bring about Othello’s downfall. As a result of society’s influence, both Othello and Delano are under the impression that being black means one is inferior in a predominantly white society. However, this idea proves fatal as it allows…

    • 1639 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    The fourth of July is nothing to slaves if they didn’t receive their freedom. Douglass says that America needs to wake up and acknowledge that slavery is wrong. The hypocrisy of the nation has to be exposed and they need to be punished. Douglass was enraged with furiousness and metaphorically states that like a fire and thunder and earthquake, that the conscience of the nation must be awoken and there needs to be a change. The meaning of July fourth was different to slaves as it was to freed white men, freedom is a dream to slaves and it was a reality that is taken for granted by white men.…

    • 1117 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    White Supremacism Analysis

    • 1423 Words
    • 6 Pages

    White supremacy was developed on the notion that dark skin represents barbarianissm, irrationality, unpleasant aesthetics and inferiority. As a result of this notion, white supremacists began to impose their culture, beliefs and faiths onto the “savages”-Africans. In Robert Hayden’s literature work, Middle Passage, the reader relives the experience and thought process of a slave who is being transported from Africa to the New World. The Middle Passage is spoken in the first person by a slave whose name is not mentioned. “We had forgotten our sires’ plumed and charioted splendors, our past ivory image buried...our false god to us, our king betraying us”(Hayden 248).…

    • 1423 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Is freedom a self destructive and impractical system? According to George Fitzhugh, in his book, Slavery Justified, freedom is used to pull people down and further enhances human greed and suffering. Fitzhugh also speaks about the supposedly positive aspects of slavery while spouting logical fallacies that further prove his lack of knowledge and credibility. He describes the condition of slavery as a benefit to society. On the other hand, Frederick Douglass in his autobiography, The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, recounts his life story and how essential freedom is to him and fellow slaves.…

    • 1032 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    The United States’ constitution allegedly adheres to the promotion of civil liberties of the American people, but in reality, persecutes the African Americans held in bondage. Frederick Douglass shines light on the persecution of his race in his narrative. Douglass was born a slave, yet died a free man. He fought hard to educate himself, and to establish himself as an intellectual human being, rather than an object for ownership. After he escaped slavery, he made it his goal to educate the public about his experiences as a slave.…

    • 2070 Words
    • 9 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Slave holders thought they were saving and protecting the black people by enslaving them and forcing them to work for them to make themselves and their white family wealthy, but instead they exploited them and were seen as a burden to society. All of this matters because it 's good to know the outcome of what slavery has done in the past, so in the future people don’t have the mind set to try to make slavery they way it use to be. Today slavery is not how it use to be back then, but there is still different types of slavery of people having to work in bad conditions, getting paid very…

    • 1222 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Hugh Auld had a significant impact on his former slave by denying Douglass the right to an education which opened up a strong desire within the aforementioned author to seek out ways to learn how to read and thus started Douglass’ journey of self-discovery and respect that ultimately led to his determination to be a free man. However, one must remember that throughout the narrative, Auld began to serve another purpose which Douglass wanted to push to his Caucasian audience in the northern and southern states. His inclusion in the narrative was not just because he owned Douglass but because Auld’s character served as the perfect example of the inconsistency of slavery. Had he not been…

    • 1050 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Despite the fact that both illustrate and challenge slavery before the Civil War in Antebellum America, Benito Cereno was written prior to the emancipation of slaves, whereas Huck Finn was written following the Civil War. As a result, Twain’s story mirrors Melville’s assertions on the moral ambiguity of slavery, however, expands it by expressing how prejudice desensitizes even seemingly “good” white people to the cruelty and injustices of slavery and racism. In writing their stories, Melville and Twain create characters who view slavery as justifiable and present affirmations of this detestable ideology and he eventually delineates…

    • 1266 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Yet others argued against this response exclaiming he did see the positive incentives in owning and selling of slaves, which was an economic strength for America and overall individuals income enhancing. Jefferson was a racist. Historians like Jon Meacham author of “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power”, professed Jefferson as a hypocrite, but his political views impacted politicians after him. Paul Finkleman professor at Hamline School of Law explains that Jefferson’s personal racism rationalizes the persistence of slavery because he couldn’t contemplate free blacks in his own society. Finkleman expresses that Jefferson was always intensely dedicated to slavery and harbored hostility to blacks both free and enslaved.…

    • 1088 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    John Smith-He Analysis

    • 1054 Words
    • 5 Pages

    He paints his compassion for the slaves as representing the European slave traders solely as “heartless monsters” that would subjugate peoples, and send peoples to be separated and abused in a new continent. Essentially, in this chapter, the plights of the slaves are blamed on the existence of the slave trade, which was inspired by the colonist desire for cheap labor to run their profitable cash crop…

    • 1054 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays

Related Topics