Study Guide

Benito Cereno Genre

By Herman Melville

Genre

Adventure; Drama; Tragedy

Melville really loves a good rollicking adventure story. This is the guy who wrote Moby Dick, the epic story a whale hunt. Anyway, danger lurks at every turn in "Benito Cereno."We don't know if Captain Delano is going to get off the San Dominick alive, and we certainly don't know if Benito Cereno is a good guy.

While Melville is first and foremost an adventure writer, "Benito Cereno"could definitely rival your favorite soap opera. Think about the fraught relationship between Cereno and Babo: like Delano says, they seem to be continuously having some sort of "love quarrel" (77.240). Quarreling lovers armed with straight razors: always a good time.

The drama in "Benito Cereno"has to do, ultimately, with life and death. Who's going to survive to tell the story? The ending of this story is pretty tragic. Forget about Benito Cereno for a second: what about Babo, who put his life on the line in order to gain temporary freedom for himself and a group of slaves. He's executed without an afterthought, and only Cereno seems to mourn his loss. And then there's Cereno himself, who basically dies of a broken heart because he misses his best buddy, Babo.

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