Melville on Inequality: A Study of the Shorter Fiction

There is, perhaps, no other American author whose work has been so hotly debated than Herman Melville. The white whale at the center of his most famous work, a juxtaposition of gender in America, an odd scrivener, and his much discussed story of a slave mutiny in “Benito Cereno”; the meaning behind Melville’s work has … Read moreMelville on Inequality: A Study of the Shorter Fiction

The Illusion of Superiority in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Benito Cereno

Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer has remarked: “Unlike our ancestors, white people never reveled in their names, they glorified in knowledge and power. But the deceiver is still the deceiver, the liar is still the liar with his knowledge and power.” Many colonial figures have pondered the unjust discrepancy between the definitions of the European … Read moreThe Illusion of Superiority in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Benito Cereno

Perception as Plot: A Structural Account of the Level of Action, Character, and the Narrative of Suspicion in Benito Cereno

In “The Grammar of Narrative,” a chapter in his longer work, The Poetics of Prose, Tzvetan Todorov describes the simplest, “minimal complete plot” as consisting “in the passage from one equilibrium to another. An ‘ideal’ narrative begins with a stable situation which is disturbed by some power or force. There results a state of disequilibrium; … Read morePerception as Plot: A Structural Account of the Level of Action, Character, and the Narrative of Suspicion in Benito Cereno

The Demise of the 19th Century American Liberal: Representations in ”Benito Cereno” and Our Nig

For the abolitionists and intellectual opponents of slavery during the 19th century, fruitless sympathy from the “enlightened” liberals of northern states was simply not enough. In the literary works “Benito Cereno” and Our Nig, authors Herman Meville and Harriet E. Wilson argue that sentimental sympathy towards racial injustices does not necessarily translate into social amelioration. … Read moreThe Demise of the 19th Century American Liberal: Representations in ”Benito Cereno” and Our Nig

The Importance of Setting in Melville’s “Benito Cereno”

Setting is an essential component of any story, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Herman Melville’s novella “Benito Cereno”, a tale of bizarre mystery, curious suspense, and ultimately surprise. In composing his story, the author emphasizes setting in an effort to add breadth to the text, using foreshadowing and a series of symbols … Read moreThe Importance of Setting in Melville’s “Benito Cereno”

The Barber’s Mastery in Melville’s Benito Cereno

Before the truth surrounding the strange fate of Benito Cereno becomes apparent, Herman Melville effects an intriguing juxtaposition between Don Benito and Babo while the latter adheres to the toilette of his “master.” Captain Delano, while watching this masquerade of owner and slave, congratulates the slave on his mastery of the razor, brush and comb … Read moreThe Barber’s Mastery in Melville’s Benito Cereno

Rebels and Non-comformists in the Short Stories of Herman Melville

In many of the short stories written by the American author Herman Melville (1819-1891), the main characters tend to exhibit some form of rebellion, usually against the normal dictates of society or against those who are in power. This trait is most often associated with the non-conformist, a person who refuses to conform to a … Read moreRebels and Non-comformists in the Short Stories of Herman Melville

Racial Stereotypes in Benito Cereno

Originating in race-based African chattel slavery, racial stereotypes have plagued American history. Antebellum stereotypes characterized African Americans as inferior and unevolved, which perpetuated the opinion of most white Americans that African Americans were suited to servitude, as they were seen as incapable of learning and being civilized. The stereotypes propagated by slavery, Minstrel Shows, and … Read moreRacial Stereotypes in Benito Cereno