Benito Cereno Questions and Answers
by Herman Melville

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Examine the "power of blackness" in Benito Cereno.  In pursuing “that blackness,” what happens to the treatment of black slaves as characters in fiction?

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"The power of blackness" is shown to be both a literal and symbolic element intrinsic to the themes in Benito Cereno.  On its literal level, there is a "power of blackness" shown in how the slaves have overtaken the San Dominick.  The power of the slaves represents one aspect of Melville's depiction of "blackness."  People of color are shown to be vengeful and filled with a particular rage towards the conditions they face and the lives they lead.  Their anger is representative of the "blackness" in their hearts, what Melville would call the "malign evil in man." This is something that Delano himself does not understand or accept in the exposition of the narrative. Yet, it becomes clear that this evil or blackness of heart does exist, as Melville suggests “in view of what humanity is capable, such a trait implies . . . more than ordinary quickness and...

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