Study Guide

Benito Cereno What's Up With the Ending?

By Herman Melville

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What's Up With the Ending?

We get one of those famously long and complex Melville sentences to end "Benito Cereno". And man, does he pack a lot into that sentence. Babo is executed and his head is mounted on a pole, where it "met, unabashed, the gazes of the whites" (104.413). Dang: even in death, Babo remains unashamed of his drastic actions. Benito Cereno, on the other hand, quietly dies and is "borne on the bier" along the very path of Babo's gaze. Creepy.

While both men meet the same fate, their means of death seem pretty significant. Even in death, Babo seems to condemn the white men who sentenced him to die. Cereno is definitely included on that list, but Babo doesn't seem particularly angry with him. He's just part of a group that failed him.

Cereno, on the other hand, is seriously torn up about Babo's death. After all, it was Cereno's desperate action—his wish to stay alive—that foiled all of Babo's plans in the first place. Perhaps Cereno's death is his way of trying to make amends to his beloved Babo.

Benito Cereno What's Up With the Ending? Study Group

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