Black Slavery In Herman Melville's 'Benito Cereno'

1146 Words 5 Pages
Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno is a political satire about black slavery. Even though it was a comedic satire, it also provoked notions about blacks and how they are not much different from their captors. This was especially powerful because it was published during the time of the civil war. Captain Delano speaks to Benito Cereno towards the end of the story: “‘You are saved,’ cried Captain Delano, more and more astonished and pained; ‘you are saved; what has cast such a shadow upon you?’” Benito Cereno responds: “‘The negro’” (Melville 107). What does Benito Cereno mean by this? I feel as though Melville is trying to express that blacks where no different from them and they were just as smart and would fight just as hard for their freedom. …show more content…
Benito Cereno was a broken man after the trail and the mutiny, as said by Captain Delano “He said that he is twenty-nine years of age, and broken in body and mind.” When Benito reply to Cpt. Delano “the negro”, this is truly a straight forward answer. The negro is figuratively and literally the shadow that was cast upon him. Babo and Atufal, the notorious slaves, whom out smarted their captors, but also deceived Cpt. Delano. Atufal was able to cast a physical shadow upon Cereno making him darker and imitating to the point where the roles of captor and slave were reversed, along with just physically dominating him. Babo, on the other hand, used his intelligence to cast his shadow, by being a shadow of death. Babo under the ruse of a faithful servant followed Cereno around, but only as a constant reminder of death. His cunning runs deep to point that Cereno, knowing his real purpose, convinces Cpt. Delano and actually gets his admiration. “But it is Babo here to whom, under God, I owe not only my own …show more content…
I am convinced that Melville knew, or believed, that the negro was not much different from us and the treatment of such people would eventually cast a shadow upon them. The under estimation of slave’s desire for freedom would ultimately be their downfall; that essentially the way of doing business was going to cease very soon or very violently. One statement he used Babo’s brutality to show that the only things that separated them was the color of their skin when he wrote “that the Negro Babo asked him whose skeleton that was, and whether, from its whiteness, he should not think it a white’s; that, upon his covering his face, the Negro Babo, coming close, said words to this effect: “Keep faith with the blacks from here to Senegal, or you shall in spirit, as now in body, follow your leader,”. This proved that blacks and non-blacks shared the same desires as Babo and wanted to go home to Senegal and Cereno wanted to go home to Chili. At one point Meliville wrote that Cpt. Delano overheard Cereno say “He made random reference to the different constitutions of races, enabling one to offer more resistance to certain maladies than another.”. This statement is a lie, thus saying that races do not offer resistance to disease, and that the white man and black man can both get sick and died all the same. Another

Related Documents

Related Topics