Study Guide

The Old Sailor in Benito Cereno

By Herman Melville

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The Old Sailor

Knotty by Nature

Okay, so this guy seems to be a one-hit wonder. He's an ancient sailor who sits in the corner knotting rope and speaks in riddles. But he provides Captain Delano the greatest reason for suspicion. "Undo it, cut it, quick," he urges Delano, although it's totally in vain" (66.165).

This tells us two things about our nameless sailor friend: he knows that speaking plainly will jeopardize Delano's safety (as well as his own), and he has faith in Delano's ability to solve the riddle of the slave-ship mutiny. Unfortunately for everyone, that second part doesn't seem to be true… Delano is just totally confused. We probably would be too, TBH.

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