Benito Cereno – Reader Response Criticism Essay

Most readers of Benito Cereno will be surprised when the African confederacy is eventually revealed. Although Melville begins the novelette with baleful imagination. the text is designed to take the reader off from the true events of the San Dominick. The point of position of Benito Cereno is the major tool Melville uses to flim-flam the reader. The narrative is written in the 3rd individual. but expresses Delano’s ideas and observations. Most readers will swear Delano’s opinion. and his observations of Don Benito and his crew set the reader up to be surprised.

First. Delano’s misgiving of Don Benito caused me to surmise the Spanish captain of taking portion in a confederacy against Delano. Benito asks him unusual inquiries about The Bachelor’s Delight “with a guilty shuffle” ( 188 ) . When Delano becomes nervous while watching Benito discoursing in private with Babo. I was besides alarmed. The image that I was most smitten by was Benito Cereno standing with his face downcast. as Babo. who is kneeling down. looks upward at his maestro ; Delano noted this contrast. and I interpreted the scene as symbolic of Cereno’s guilt.

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Second. I believed Babo to be a devoted and loyal retainer. Delano was impressed by Babo’s concern for Don Benito. as was I. I ne'er interpreted Babo’s changeless service as anything but well-meaning ; in fact. all of the slaves on the ship appeared to be good-natured. Delano even reflected on the ability of the African race to blend work with pleasance after detecting the “negroes” onboard executing what he thought were the orders of Cereno. He was wholly incognizant of the slaves’ true purposes.

I. like most readers of Benito Cereno. was wholly incognizant of the mutiny of the slaves until Delano realized upon his going that Don Benito had been terrified all along of Babo ; nevertheless. upon rereading the text. there are many hints as to what was traveling on. In this new context. the image of Don Benito looking down while Babo looked up at him takes on an wholly new significance. This clearly represents Babo’s power contrasted with Cereno’s weakness. The same moral force is shown when Babo is shaving Don Benito and cuts him.

Delano notes that nil “could have produced a more panicky facet than was now presented by Don Benito” ( 215 ) . During a 2nd reading. I was besides able to detect several other averments of the Africans’ power. The two Africans who pushed aside the Spanish mariner. and the African male child who attacked the Spanish male child were showing their control over the ship and its riders. Besides. when a Spanish mariner tries to reply Delano’s inquiries about the San Dominick’s problems. the Africans take over: “as they became chatty. he by grades became tongueless. and at length rather glum” ( 197 ) .

These are all of import inside informations that illustrate the implicit in events of the ship. but the reader is non able to correctly construe them during the first reading. These events are merely important to the reader once the confederacy has been revealed. The text of Benito Cereno is designed to misdirect the reader. Delano’s point of position caused me to misinterpret the events onboard the San Dominick. The typical reader is merely able to bring out the concealed hints of the narrative one time Delano himself becomes cognizant of the existent confederacy.



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