Study Guide

Benito Cereno Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By Herman Melville

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Anticipation Stage and Call

Let's be up-front here, Shmoopers. "Benito Cereno" is all about overcoming a monster, but that monster isn't really a distinct person. It's more about the monstrous part of humanity, creeping closer to Captain Delano in the shape of the San Dominick. Although Delano is perfectly happy on the Bachelor's Delight, he's compelled to investigate the evil presence on the San Dominick. We'd say that even though there's no real, live, fire-breathing monster, he's experiencing a pretty clear call to action.

Dream Stage

At first, Captain Delano seems oddly immune to the sense of human evil that saturates the San Dominick. We might even say he endorses the evil: the only things he notices amiss are when the slaves seem to be out of place, and he offers to buy Babo from Benito Cereno. Slowly, Captain Delano comes to realize that all is not well aboard the ship.

Frustration Stage

Finally, Captain Delano confronts that nagging feeling that something is up. Tellingly, this happens in a conversation with himself (remember how we said he's got a little bit of the monster in him?). Captain Delano tries to escape the clutches of the San Dominick, but Benito Cereno keeps clinging to him. First, he won't let go of his hand. Then, he jumps in the boat with him and tries to escape. Too bad the San Dominick isn't something you can escape from.

Nightmare Stage

After Benito Cereno jumps in the little boat with Captain Delano, all seems to be lost. Babo is out for blood, although Captain Delano doesn't get at first that he's trying to stab Benito Cereno. The San Dominick and the Bachelor's Delight engage in a fierce battle, with the former slaves up against Captain Delano's crew. Again, this is a place where "Overcoming the Monster" seems to come up short. No matter which crew wins, the monster is still there.

The Thrilling Escape from Death, and the Death of the Monster

At first, Benito Cereno seems to be totally thrilled that he's evaded death. The Bachelor's Delight wins the battle, and Babo is put on trial with the rest of the slaves. But when Babo is put to death for his crimes, Benito Cereno quickly follows suit. The two are closely linked: the only way the monster will truly die is with the two of them.

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