Analysis Of The Movie ' Benito Cereno ' Essay

Analysis Of The Movie ' Benito Cereno ' Essay

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In Benito Cereno, Melville is specific in his depiction and symbolism of each of the main characters. The target group of the essay was the white northerner who is generally against slavery, but does not care to take action. Captain Delano is the perfect character to represent this target group, and the story was told primarily from Delano’s perspective. It is clear throughout the story that Delano is somewhat against slavery, but does believe that blacks are of lesser intelligence and incapable of being in cahoots with Cereno; therefore, he is racist. Melville uses the story as an omen to white northerners that slaves are capable of great things, and that northerners must change their attitude toward the root cause of slavery: racism.
Almost all of the story is told in the third person perspective of Delano, targeting the white northerner audience right away. Delano has a limited perspective of his surroundings, he tends to notice signs of unusual behavior, but is oblivious to their potential meaning or consequences. Delano’s ignorant style allows him to base his opinions of what is going on around him solely on his preconceptions. Most of his thoughts while on the San Dominick, therefore, are controlled by his racist opinions of the role of blacks and whites. Melville uses this to show white northerners they must challenge their preconceptions, not only because of the potential danger for whites, but also because those preconceptions are what is allowing slavery to continue to exist.
Delano never gives any thought to the possibility that Babo could be a leader or even capable of colluding with Cereno. He shows this when he dismisses the possibility of Cereno working with the slaves to plot against him by saying "who ever hea...


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...lavery was tied closely to racism, and that blacks will never truly be free unless racism is combatted.
Through Delano, Melville shows the dangers of racism. He believes that white northerners are not doing enough as bystanders who think slavery is wrong. He shows how northerners are indeed racist, albeit less aggressively so, and that they are as much to blame for slavery as southerners. He also uses the story of Benito Cereno as a warning to whites, which serves as motivation; if they do not change their oblivious ignorance of what is going on, they could consequently be the victim of a metaphorical slave insurrection. We can see today that despite slavery being long gone, the effects of racism still have a profound effect on the lives of blacks. The message to white northerners was to stop “following their leader,” and to recognize the root of the problem: racism.

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