Although Melville occasionally seems to have a sense of
humor about Captain Delano's obliviousness, the overall tone seems to be on the
darker side. Think about the shaving scene, when Babo "accidentally"
draws his "first blood" (75.225). Thanks, Melville, for making
everyone automatically nervous at the barbershop—every smiling hairstylist now
looks like Sweeny Todd.
For real, this scene is a great example of Melville's dark
exploration of his characters' psyches. We've got Babo, who's found a great way
to keep Benito Cereno in check, Cereno himself, who can't stop quivering like
an arrow, and Delano, who doesn't have a clue what's going on.
Still, one of Melville's major strengths is staying
objective. Even when the drama is high, Melville doesn't resort to sentimental
monologues. Instead, he lets the characters act out their own conflicts,
allowing his readers to pass the final judgment.