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Racial Symbolism In Herman Melville's Benito Cereno

Decent Essays
Throughout history, literary works have symbolized a sense of society. From religious texts to historical documents, nationality, community, and personal identity are often at the forefront of literacy. In the United States, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are undoubtedly linked to the near ubiquitous sense of freedom and patriotism that radiates across the nation. For the people of the Jewish faith, the Tanakh both their faith and communal heritage. While novels do not signify nationality in the same manner, the fictional stories embedded within them are often laced with undertones that strongly imply the state of the world at the time they were written. In the case of Herman Melville’s classic novella Benito Cereno, the state of the United States during its publishing in 1855 is heavily represented as the racial tension and struggle over slavery at the time is symbolized through Captain Delano’s blatant racism as well as Babo’s role on the San Dominick. During the mid-19th century, racial tensions were on the rise as questions over the morality of slavery began to take hold in the United States. To capture this clash, Melville utilizes Captain Delano as a catalyst to spark the discussion of racism as the country was on the verge of Civil War. Throughout the entire course of the novella, Delano uses subtle derogatory terminology and an abundance of racial metaphors. However, on occasion Delano is seen utilizing verbalism that conspicuously illustrates the
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