Benito Cereno Questions and Answers
by Herman Melville

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What is a good argument that can be made about Benito Cereno?

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The complexities of Herman Melville's novella Benito Cereno provoke a number of interesting discussions. One of the easiest and most straightforward arguments to make is in regards to the shortcomings of the main character, Amasa Delano. In the story, Delano is oblivious to what is actually happening aboard the San Dominick, the Spanish vessel captained by the title character. Throughout the story, Delano's own prejudices prevent him from understanding that the ship is under the control of the slaves aboard it who have revolted and are attempting to find a way to return to their homeland.

In the story, Delano notices many instances of unruly behavior and disrespect on the part of the "slaves," yet none of the Spaniards aboard the ship do anything about these moments. An interesting argument could be made regarding how "obvious" the truth is, and how Delano's own prejudices prevent him from seeing what is happening right before his eyes.

Perhaps the most egregious instance of Delano's blindness occurs when Cereno's Senegalese servant, Babo, shaves Cereno and uses the Spanish flag to clean the blood from Cereno's neck. Eventually, Delano begins to believe something is amiss, yet his holds to his belief that Cereno and the Spaniards are the ones that are in charge of whatever ambush Delano is afraid he will walk into. Even at the end of the story, when Delano is getting back to his own ship and Cereno rushes toward him, followed closely by Babo, Delano continues to believe that the slaves are following Cereno's orders.

Melville's novella provides ample instances to use to support an argument regarding Delano's incompetence. The moments mentioned above are some of the easiest to focus on, but they are by no means the only scenes available to support this argument.

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