Study Guide

Benito Cereno Plot Analysis

By Herman Melville

Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation)

Just a Bachelor, Doing Bachelor Things

Amasa Delano has it all. He's got his own boat, the Bachelor's Delight, that's practically a man-cave, a sweet gig as a sea captain, and a bunch of loot. Oh, and he's sitting pretty in St. Maria harbor with his crew—none of that nasty sailing business for him.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

Ghost Ship in the House

What's that? A ship with torn-up sails and a weird-looking figurehead is rolling into the harbor? You can count on Captain Delano to investigate. There's nothing he loves better than to step off his nice, comfortable ship to help out a fellow sailor.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

Babo's Shaving Shop is Open for Business

Delano's noticed more than a few sketchy things going on aboard the San Dominick, but the weirdest by far is when Babo cuts his master while giving him a shave. Does that sound like a minor thing? Well, you could cut the tension with a straight razor when Babo's lathering up (and slicing) Cereno.

Falling Action

Did You Fall From Heaven, Benito Cereno?

Cereno may have fallen into Delano's arms like a ton of bricks, but his desperate attempt to escape signals the second major turning event. His crazy jump prompts Babo to try to cut him (a second time) and suddenly, the jig is up for the crew of the San Dominick.

Resolution (Denouement)

Following the Leader, Wherever He May Be

The trial is almost an after-thought, but it gives us a pretty thorough explanation of the slave rebellion aboard the San Dominick. The real shocking resolution, though, is finding out exactly how connected Babo and Benito Cereno really were. Shortly after Babo is executed, Benito Cereno makes like one of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan and follows his leader to the grave.

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