Benito Cereno. Retrieved from http://www.pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/benito.pdf on October 5, 2009.
In the late 18th century and early 19th century, even into the 20th century, white people were very prejudice and treated slaves and/or Blacks as inferior beings. In his book Benito Cereno, Melville portrayed Captain Delano as being indifferent towards the slaves aboard the San Dominick. A couple of times throughout the story, Melville portrayed conflicting feelings of slavery through Captain Delano. At one time, Captain Delano told Captain Cereno “Ah, this slavery breeds ugly passion in man!” (p.45) He spoke those words to Captain Cereno when Babo made it look as though Captain Cereno cut his cheek because Babo accidentally nicked him while shaving. Another time in the story, it was stated, “In fact, like most men of a good, blithe heart, Captain Delano took to Negroes, not philanthropically, but generally, just as other men to Newfoundland dogs.” (p.41) Was Melville portraying Captain Delano’s attitude toward slaves as how some men would treat them like dogs? Throughout this story, Captain Delano often compares the slaves aboard the San Dominick to animals. Babo is a “shepherd’s dog,” (p.7) an African mother is a “doe in the shade of a woodland rock” (p. 29) tending her “fawn, stark naked, its black little body half lifted from the deck, crosswise with its dam’s; its hands, like two paws clamoring upon her,; its mouth and nose ineffectually rooting to get at the mark…” (p.30) and Captain Cereno is master of his “flock of black sheep” (p. 16). Does Captain Delano subconsciously feel slaves are subhuman? Again, Captain Delano’s attitude towards the slaves on the San Dominick varied throughout the story. I find it odd Delano would not have been suspicious of all the slaves running about the ship unaccompanied by white men. It is my understanding of slave ships, that the slaves were actually make to lie in the hold of the ship, packed...
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