Human Behavior In Herman Melville's Benito Cereno

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Herman Melville (1819-1891) was an American writer considered one of the great authors of universal literature. Being just twenty years old, he began a series of trips around the world that would later serve as the base and inspiration for some of his novels, including several years working as a whaler and spending numerous adventures in the Pacific Islands. Hence, the sea and its environment are fundamental in the work of Melville. The origin of his novella, ‘Benito Cereno’, is a real fact collected in a chapter of A Narrative of Voyages and Travels, in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, chronicle of trips published in Boston, in 1817, by the North American captain Amasa Delano (1763-1823). As a matter of fact, Melville even preserved the real name of the captain so as to assign it to one of his characters. Melville reproduced the anecdote almost literally, and only altered a few details of the chronicle. Perhaps his intention was not to write a plain account of marine adventures, but to take advantage of the singularity of this fictionalized fact to express his personal moral reflections on human behaviour. Through his main characters, Melville portrayed human behaviour common to every person without distinction of race, nationality, language, culture, or social class. Conducts that, on occasions, are worthy of praise; while in others, it is illustrated the cruel testimonies of the vile condition of human nature. Behaviour is conditioned according to one´s doing and perspective. Like some scholars have stated, “many find Babo evil, just as others find the captain of the slave ship, Benito Cereno, and the liberal, Delano, evil. Defenders of a culture based on slavery will necessarily find the struggle against slavery evil” (Leslie and Stuckey 297). Generally speaking, conduct is a subjective issue which depends on the eye of the beholder. What determined Babo´s and his fellows’ behaviour was their situation of slavery, which triggers all the problems that the San Dominick goes through, and not the supposed ‘evil’ of the blacks, torn from Africa. The perception of what is good and what is bad is ambiguous and changeable, it is attached to several factors and experiences that are involved in the discovery

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