Study Guide

Benito Cereno Writing Style

By Herman Melville

Writing Style

Abrupt, Wordy

Melville's a master of wordy sentences that quickly introduce surprising details—his sentences ain't highways; they're windy roads with lots of twists and turns. This is one of the hallmarks of his adventure story.

Check out this sentence as an example:

To Captain Delano's imagination, now again not wholly at rest, there was something so hollow in the Spaniard's manner, with apparently some reciprocal hollowness in the servant's hollow duskiness of silence, that the idea flashed across him that possibly master and man, for some unknown purpose, were acting out, both in word and deed […] some juggling play before him. (76.230)

And that's just part of the sentence, Shmoopers.

Let's break it down: we've got the repetition of the word hollow to compare master and servant, one of Delano's famous lightbulb moments, and the realization of deception. That's a lot to cram in one sentence. But that's just how Melville does it. He loves to pack in as many details as quickly as possible, leaving lots of surprising nuggets for those lucky (and vigilant) folks who reread.

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