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Benito Cereno Summary

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Benito Cereno by Herman Melville centers around a captain by the name of Amasa Delano in the year 1799. Captain Delano’s whaleboat, the Bachelor's Delight, anchors on a small island off the coast of southern Chile when one early morning, a wrecked slave ship appears. On the slave ship, the San Dominick, Delano meets the peculiar Benito Cereno the captain of the ship, and Babo, the servant of Benito Cereno. As Captain Delano begins to ask Benito of the ship's past, Benito begins to have coughing fits where Babo answers the question for him. On one of the instances, Captain Delano sees a large African slave by the name of Atufal, who is the only chained slave, Delano inquires why is that so. Benito answers saying that all he has to do is pardon himself, and so Atufal will be free, but he refuses to do so. Babo then pitches in explaining how Atufal was once a great king while he says how he used to be a slave to a black man. “Upon my conscience, then,” exclaimed Captain Delano, impulsively, “he has a royal spirit in him, this fellow.” “He may have some right to it,” bitterly returned Don Benito, “he says he was king in his own land” “Yes,” said the servant, entering a word, “those slits in Atufal’s ears once held wedges of gold; but poor Babo here, in his own land, was only a poor slave; a black man’s slave was Babo, who now is the white’s.” Somewhat annoyed by these conversational familiarities, Captain Delano turned curiously upon the attendant, then glanced inquiringly at
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