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1Tyler BrondykProf. IdsvoogGENL 100Due 4/24/12Melville’s novel Benito Cereno is a unique maritime story that illustrates the unusualrelationship between blacks and whites in 1799.At this time, blacks are used as slaves and areknown to be mistreated by the whites.Captain Delano’s inability to acknowledge that there is aproblem on the ship is a major issue, as he is very trusting and does not see evil in anyone.Theslaves have taken over the Spaniards scheming right in front of him and prove to be muchsmarter than Delano and Benito.Delano goes back and forth with trusting his intuition andsurprisingly the lack of following his instincts saves his life.The blacks proved to be smarterthan the credit they were given.Captain Delano’s innocence and trusting nature along with hissubtle racism causes him to dismiss the odd and strange happenings on the ship and luckily saveshis life from what could have potentially been a massive disaster.Melville’s description of Benito Cereno’s boat as seen by Delano from a distance sets thetone for this novel.The boat is described as having “one sinister eye peering across the Plazafrom the Indian loop-hole of her dusk saya-y-manta.” (36) The boat’s sinister eye is interestingbecause the word sinister means deleterious and is not a positive word to use to make the boatsound pleasant.There is definitely an issue on the boat but it is unclear what it could be.TheSpanish saying at the end is footnoted to mean a woman’s robe constructed to reveal only herface.The face is a part of the body that people look at first and is an outside feature of the boat.Delano doesn’t know what is on the inside of the boat, but decides to board it despite itsstrangeness.“Captain Delano’s surprise might have deepened into some uneasiness had he not
2been a person of a singularly undistrustful good nature…” (35) At the head of the boat in bigletters reads Seguid vuestro jefe, which means “follow your leader”.Delano assumes Benito isthe leader since it would be inconceivable to him that the slaves would be.Who is the leader ontheSan Dominick?Once Delano is on board, he sees more blacks than whites, which is unexpected.However, he believes their tale of scurvy, fever, and shipwreck.As he finds the Spaniard captainhe also finds the overly attentive Babo, his slave.Delano refers to him like “a shepherd’s dog”.(39) This is the first glimpse that Delano views blacks somewhat as animals.Delano’s racism is present when he is ignorant to the fact that the slaves could use thehatchets as weapons.The slave’s are referred to as having “rusty hatchets” (39) and the hatchetsharpeners are not as dangerous as“...the peculiar love in Negroes of uniting industry withpastime.” (39) Furthermore, when Delano asks about the Ashantee conjurors polishing hatchets,“ this seems a curious business they are at, Don Benito?” (48) Benito explains they need cleaning