Study Guide

Benito Cereno Lies and Deceit

By Herman Melville

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Lies and Deceit

And might not that same undiminished Spanish crew, alleged to have perished off to a remnant, be at that very moment lurking in the hold? (58.123)

Captain Delano never imagines that the slaves are the ones tricking him. His suspicions always revolve around the Spaniards.

He recalled the Spaniard's manner while telling the story. There was a gloomy hesitancy and subterfuge about it. (59.124)

The manner in which people tell stories matters a lot when it comes to the effectiveness of their lies… but again, Delano doesn't suspect the slaves. 

"[…] master told me never mind where he was, or how engaged, always to remind him, to a minute, when shaving-time comes." (71.199)

While Babo is a skilled liar, his lies are dependent on complete control of Benito Cereno. What do you think would happen if Benito refused his shave?

[…] Captain Delano's nature was not only benign, but familiarly and humorously so. (73.213)

Melville makes it sound like Delano just isn't smart enough to tell a lie. What do you think, Shmoopers? Is skillful lying dependent on intellect?

"See master—you shook so—here's Babo's first blood." (75.225)

Talk about a masterful lie. Babo is so convincing that Delano buys it, hook, line, and sinker. How much do you want to bet that Babo had cut Cereno's neck quite a few times?

As if glad to snatch the offered relief, Don Benito resumed, rehearsing to Captain Delano […] (76.229)

Lying almost seems like a relief to Cereno. Is this because he's placating Babo, or saving his own life? What other reasons could there be for lying to be comforting to Cereno?

"But tell me, has he not, so far as you have known him, always proved a good, worthy fellow?" (78.244)

Delano always seems to be pushing towards the truth, but he never <em>quite </em>gets there. 

"I cannot go," decisively and repulsively repeated Don Benito. (84.296)

The few moments where Cereno compulsively tells the truth are as interesting as when he lies. Do you think he's trying to convey a message to Delano?

I have done him wrong, self-reproachfully thought Captain Delano; his apparent coldness has deceived me; in no instance has he meant to offend. (86.308)

In one of Delano's most self-reflective moments, he admits that Cereno's cold exterior led him to make a quick judgment.

[…] it seemed as if Don Benito had taken it into his head to produce the impression among his people that the boat wanted to kidnap him. (87.313)

Oh, honey. In a moment like this, Delano is making everything <em>way </em>too complicated. The truth is complicated enough as it is!

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