Benito Cereno | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Study Guide
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Benito Cereno | Character Analysis


Captain Amasa Delano

Captain Amasa Delano, while not the actual narrator of Benito Cereno, is the character from whose perspective the story is primarily told. His "good nature" and benevolence are remarked upon throughout the story and are partially what make his perspective so unreliable. His good-naturedness makes him at times naive and gracious when he should be suspicious. He seems to be a competent and experienced captain, as well as generous with his aid and supplies to others. His attitude towards the black people on board the San Dominick is relatively benign: he does not actively seem to despise them based on their skin color, but he also adheres to the general mentality of the time and sees them as being a lower race—a shortsightedness that is nearly his undoing.

Benito Cereno

Benito Cereno's character throughout the narrative appears weak and ill of body or mind. It is not clear what type of man he was before he underwent the traumas aboard the San Dominick. Captain Delano sees him as someone possibly of unsound mind and notes that his frequent fits leave him shaking and incapacitated. He is described as being "saturnine" (slow and gloomy) and having a "dreary, spiritless look." Underneath all of his nervous fits and what Captain Delano interprets as rudeness, however, is a man traumatized by fear and by what he has seen on his ship. Ultimately, he seems to still possess some strength and presence of mind, as he is able to make the decision to save himself.


Babo is a somewhat mysterious character, and what little can be gleaned about him is primarily through the biased observations of Captain Delano or the incriminating deposition given by Benito Cereno. He appears at first to be a loyal and sensitive servant, but it is revealed he is in fact a self-possessed and fierce leader of the other rebel slaves aboard the ship. In Benito Cereno's and Captain Delano's eyes he is a murderous mutineer who caused the death of many Spanish sailors and officers in his bid for freedom. It is certain his fellow mutineers see him in a much more positive light becasue he is their leader and their hope for freedom.

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