Benito cereno

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  • Publicado : 18 de agosto de 2010
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[edit] Background
The novella centers on a slave rebellion on board a Spanish merchant ship in 1799 and because of its ambiguity has been read by some as racist and pro-slavery and by others asanti-racist and abolitionist text (Newman 1986). Earlier critics, however, had seen Benito Cereno as a tale that primarily explores human depravity and does not reflect upon race at all (for exampleFeltenstein 1947). Melville's most recent biographer, Andrew Delbanco, emphasizes the topicality of "Benito Cereno" in a post-September 11th world: "In our own time of terror and torture, Benito Cereno hasemerged as the most salient of Melville's works: a tale of desperate men in the grip of a vengeful fury that those whom they hate cannot begin to understand".[1]

The primary source for the plot,as well as some of the text, was Amasa Delano's Narrative of Voyages and Travels, in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, chapter 18 (1817),[2] though Benito Cereno contains crucial changes andexpansions that make it a very different text. The most transformative change lies in the narrator, or rather in the way in which the tale is told: The crucial information that in the slave rebellion, allthe senior Spanish seamen bar the captain Don Benito Cereno have been murdered, is withheld from the reader. The Spanish sailors, and specifically Cereno, are forced to play along in a theatricalperformance for the benefit of the American Amasa Delano who initially approaches the dilapidated Spanish ship to offer his assistance. Though written in the third person, the narrative emerges largelythrough the point of view of Delano throughout the first and longest part of the narrative and therefore remains limited to what Delano sees (or thinks he sees). Delano represents a version of NewEngland innocence, which has also been read as strategy to ensure colonial power over both Spain and Africans in the "New World" (cf. Sundquist 1993). Babo, who plays the faithful body servant to the...
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