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?
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."
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?
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
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.
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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