Study Guide

Benito Cereno Weakness

By Herman Melville

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The man was an impostor. (54.99)

The only proof Captain Delano has of Benito Cereno being an impostor is that the dude is pretty physically weak. Delano expects a guy in his position to be strong in a showy way.

As he saw his meager form in the act of recovering itself from reclining in the servant's arms, into which the agitated invalid had fallen […] (69.187)

Benito Cereno is actually dependent on Babo in order to stand. That's a pretty powerful case for who's the real master in this relationship.

[…] just then the razor drew blood, spots of which stained the creamy lather under the throat […] (75.225)

What do you think, Shmoopers? Is this an accident, or is Babo sending Benito Cereno a signal about his vulnerability?

Briefly alluding to his weak condition, he urged his host to remain quietly where he was […] (81.267)

Cereno's weakness actually seems to motivate Delano to help him. That's a weird paradox.

Again Don Benito shrank, and this time, as the good sailor thought, from a genuine twinge of his conscience. (83.288)

The thing about weakness is that it makes the weak person something of a blank canvas: Delano can project whatever motivations he wants onto Cereno. 

Suddenly the old ague of coldness returned, and dropping back onto his cushions he was silent. (83.293)

Seems like a lot of Cereno's weak moments have to do with his mood swings. When he can't cope emotionally, he just hangs back on his cushions.

"What? It will not fatigue you." (83.295)

Delano seems to be getting sick of Cereno's <em>weak </em>excuses. Uh, sorry. We'll show ourselves out.

Don Benito would not let go the hand of Captain Delano but retained it in his […] (86.309)

This is the only time we see Cereno's physical strength on display. Then again, the guy is pretty desperate.

At this juncture, the left hand of Captain Delano, on one side, again clutched the half-reclined Don Benito, heedless that he was in a speechless faint […] (87.316)

It's pretty incredible that Cereno even got in the boat, given that he was already in a half-faint. We're going to chalk it up to some superhuman boost of energy.

Though, midway on the passage, the ill-fated Spaniard, relaxed from constraint, showed some signs of regaining health with free-will, yet, agreeably to his own foreboding, shortly before arriving at Lima, he relapsed, finally becoming so reduced as to be carried ashore in arms. (91.336)

So much for our theory that stress caused Cereno's illness. He's suffering from something totally different, but we're not sure what.

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