He sees the remaining sailors taking flight into the masts to escape the "flourishing hatchets and knives" of the blacks who are after them. The canvas falls off the ship's figurehead, revealing the strung-up skeleton of Alexandro Aranda. Delano secures Babo, and his men, under command of his chief mate, attack the Spanish ship to claim booty by defeating the revolting slaves.
Eventually, legal depositions taken at Lima explain the matter. As Delano approaches, the revolting slaves set up the delusion that the surviving whites are still in charge.
Some months after the trial, Babo is executed never having said a word to defend himself: his body is burned but his head, "fixed on a pole in the Plaza, met, unabashed, the gaze of the whites". Babo's head looks in the direction of St. Melville biographer Andrew Delbanco writes that in the s, a revolt on a slave ship was not a far-fetched topic for a literary work. In , the Spanish schooner La Amistad with fifty slaves became the site of slave revolt between two Cuban ports, and two crew members were killed.
An American naval vessel seized the Amistad when the ship had wandered off course near Long Island. Then followed a legal battle which went all the way to the U. Supreme Court ruling United States v. The Amistad.
In the American Creole moved slaves from Virginia to New Orleans when nineteen slaves killed a white sailor and took command of the ship, which then set sail to the British Bahamas. In the Creole case , the slaves were set free under the British Act of Emancipation. Madison Washington, the leader of the revolt, became the hero of a novel a decade later, in March , when Frederick Douglass published the short novel The Heroic Slave in his anti-slavery newspaper North Star.
Delano's account of this encounter follows his thoughts and actions before, during, and after he realizes that the Tryal has been overtaken by the slaves aboard, thus allowing Melville to build his narrative for Benito Cereno. Harold H. He merely rewrote this Chapter including a portion of the legal documents there appended, suppressing a few items, and making some small additions. First, while Delano does not describe the Spanish ship, Melville provides a description of a "Spanish merchantman of the first class," that had seen better days: "The tops were large, and were railed about with what had once been octagonal net-work, all now in sad disrepair Battered and mouldy, the castellated forecastle seemed some ancient turrot, long ago taken by assault, and then left to decay.
Third, while the real Delano was accompanied by his midshipman Luther, Melville's Delano visits the Spanish ship alone. Though the names of the captains remain unchanged, Melville changes the name of the confidential servant from Muri to Babo. Other additions include the two slaves attacking the Spanish seaman, the glimpse of the jewel, and the sailor presenting the Gordian knot. Melville elaborates on Cereno's leap into Delano's boat after Babo's attempt to stab Cereno as well as the revelation of the skeleton-shaped figurehead. Final inventions are Cereno's deposition at the beginning and his death in a monastery.
Scholar Rosalie Feltenstein finds it "far from accurate" to say that he found his story ready-made in his source,  a statement not just contradicted by Scudder's own inventory of alterations, but instead of suppressing only "a few items," Melville in fact "omits the whole second half of the narrative. Andrew Delbanco points out Melville's elaboration of the episode in which Delano is struck by the scarcity of whites aboard when he first enters the San Dominick.
The real Delano describes this in one phrase "captain, mate, people and slaves, crowded around me to relate their stories" , but Melville expands the scene to one full paragraph. According to Melville scholar Harrison Hayford , "the island of Santa Maria is relocated from the coast of central Chile near Concepcion to 'down towards its southern extremity,' Biographer Parker concludes the legal documents section is roughly half Melville's own invention fused with slightly adapted documents copied from Delano.
Melville's additions include cannibalism and the image of Columbus. Generally, his inventions are "not distinguishable without collation of the real depositions against Melville's deposition, for the Delano chapter provided dazzlingly evocative material to work from. Historian Sterling Stuckey finds it unjust to restrict attention to chapter 18, because Melville used elements from other chapters as well.
Andrew Delbanco observes the subtlety of Melville's handling of perspective, writing that Melville "moves us so close to Delano's perspective that we witness the scene as if over his shoulder and hear the 'clamorous' crowd as if through his ears. Throughout the majority of the novella, the crucial information that the self-liberated blacks have murdered all of the Spanish officers on board, excepting Benito Cereno, is withheld from the reader.
During his visit aboard the slave carrier, Hershel Parker observes that Delano "repeats a pattern of suspicions-followed-by-reassurance, with progressively shorter periods in which suspicions can be allayed. Several critics have noticed the fundamental rhythm of the story, a rhythm of tension and relief characteristic of the sentences, Captain Delano's state of mind, and even of the structure of the novella as a whole. Every so often, Delbanco notices an unusual hissing whisper or silent hand signal "might cut through Delano's haze and awaken him to the true situation, but he always reverts to 'tranquillizing' thoughts" about the white man's power and the black man's "natural servility".
Unconsciously, Delano lets himself be distracted from pursuing his apprehensions. The prolonged riddle of the main story is solved with the leap of Don Benito into Delano's boat—an ending of just a page and a half. This event is related a second time, now in "the cumbersome style of a judicial exposition" for which the documents in the source provided the model. For Berthoff, the presence of these documents represent "only the most abrupt of a series of shifts and starts in the presentation" that constitute the narrative rhythm of "tension increasing and diminishing" and of "the nervous succession of antithetical feelings and intuitions.
Besides the role of Melville's descriptive powers in carrying the suspension in this sentence, "the rhythm of sensation and response it reproduces" is in "in miniature" the rhythm of both the action and the telling. After the presentation of the legal documents, the novella concludes in a style of "spare, rapid, matter-of-fact statement into longer paragraphs and a more sustained and concentrated emphasis:".
These last paragraphs introduce a new tone, after the "teasing oscillations of mood" in the first part and the "dry repetitions of the court documents," the novella's conclusion is "terse, rapid, taut with detail," and for Berthoff an admirable example of "Melville's ordinary boldness in fitting his performance to the whole developing occasion. As Rosalie Feltenstein first noticed, the Spanish ship and its crew are described continuously in "similes drawn from monastic life.
Because of its ambiguity, the novella has been read by some as racist and pro-slavery and by others as anti-racist and abolitionist. Feltenstein sees "a trace of nineteenth-century satanism in Babo,"  and asserts that "Slavery is not the issue here; the focus is upon evil in action in a certain situation. Since the s, criticism has moved to reading Babo as the heroic leader of a slave rebellion whose tragic failure does not diminish the genius of the rebels. In an inversion of contemporary racial stereotypes, Babo is portrayed as a physically weak man of great intellect, his head impaled on a spike at the end of the story a "hive of subtlety".
Later critics, such as Valerie Bonita Gray, regard Delano's "racial perceptions" as the cause of his blindness: "Delano never suspects the truth aboard the San Dominick because he stereotypes the mentality of the slaves", and sees them as "musical, good-humored and cheerful". Other critics regard Melville's alteration of the year of events from to , the Christopher Columbus motif, and the name of the San Dominick as allusions to the French colony then known as Saint-Domingue , called Santo Domingo in Spanish, one of the first landing places of Columbus.
In the s a slave revolt took place there under the leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture , which led to the first free black republic in the Americas. According to scholar Hester Blum, the voyages of Columbus, "who initiated New World colonization and slavery," form the "negative inspiration" of Babo's revolt. Robertson-Lorent finds that "Melville indicts slavery without sentimentalizing either the blacks or the whites.
The Americans display no better moral when they board the ship at the end of the story: it is not kindness that restrains them from killing the Africans, but their plan to claim the "cargo" for themselves. Bryant observes an epistemological dimension to the story, as Delano admires the black race not for its humanity but for its perceived servility. This prejudiced view renders Delano unable to see the black people's ability to revolt and unable to understand the slave ship's state of affairs. The issue is "not his lack of intelligence, but the shape of his mind, which can process reality only through the sieve of a culturally conditioned benevolent racism," and Delano is eventually "conned by his most cherished stereotypes.
Delbanco observes that Delano's psychology switches between tension and fear. Each time some anomaly occurs, such as the slave who stands unbowed before a white man trembling with fear, Delano contemplates the matter deeply and always thinks up a reason for feeling relieved. The scene of Babo's shaving of Don Benito is, in Delbanco's words, "a meditation on subjectivity itself.
Apparently, Babo tests the blade across his palm, and for Delano the sound is that of a man humbling himself, while Cereno hears "the black man warning him: if you make one move toward candor, I will cut your throat. In Delbanco's estimation, "Delano's capacity for self-deception is limitless.
Babo then draws a spot of blood from Don Benito with a flick of his razor, an accident he calls "Babo's first blood" and blames on Don Benito's shaking. He then concludes Don Benito's toilette with a comb, as if to put on a show for Delano. Then, just when Delano has preceded the other two out of the cabin, Babo cuts himself in the cheek.
Frederick Douglass Narrative And Benito Cereno
On deck, he shows Delano the bleeding and explains that this is Don Benito's punishment for the accident. Delano is momentarily shocked by this Spanish cruelty, but when he sees Babo and Don Benito reconciled he is relieved to notice that the outrage has passed. One other strain in criticism is to read in the story an almost Jamesian moral with Delano as the American who, "confronted with evil in unescapable form, wanted only to turn over a new leaf, to deny and to forget the lesson he ought to have learned. Melville probably wrote the novella in the winter of Dix, the publisher of Putnam's.
Curtis expressed being "anxious" to read Melville's new story, which Dix then sent him. On 19 April Curtis wrote to Dix he found the story "very good", even though he regretted that Melville "did not work it up as a connected tale instead of putting in the dreary documents at the end. The novella was first serialized anonymously in Putnam's Monthly Magazine in three installments: no. The October Issue, the first installment also carried a piece on "the suicide of slavery," referring to the possible destruction of the republic.
Thus, the novella appeared in a "partisan magazine committed to the anti-slavery cause.
On October 9, , Evening Post correspondent "Pictor" revealed the source for the story, and inferred how it would end. Biographer Hershel Parker believes he did this because Pictor had revealed the source for the novella. No other printing appeared during Melville's lifetime. Among those editors was Richard Henry Dana, an anti-slavery activist whose Boston-based Vigilance Committee outfitted a vessel in dubbed the Moby Dick to ferry fugitive slaves to safety.
In the novella became the first separate edition of any of his short prose pieces when the Nonesuch Press published the text with illustrations by E. McKnight Kauffer.
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According to scholar Johannes D. Compare and Contrast the Concept. It is my purpose to outline the connection between spirituality, freedom and nature and explain how American writers have chosen to reflect and interpret these themes in relation to their historical realities. At the beginning of the colonization process there were two congruent depictions of nature.