Study Guide

Benito Cereno Power

By Herman Melville

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Life aboard the <em>San Dominick </em>is one big power struggle. While the power in "Benito Cereno" had previously been in the hands of Cereno and the rest of the Spanish crew, the slave rebellion totally upended that. Like Delano observes without knowing it, the surviving Spanish crew definitely has some issues adjusting to their new position.

The thing is, everyone on the ship realizes that the power could shift hands at any time. That's why Babo takes such great care to seem extra-attentive to Cereno. Only by pretending everything is normal is he able to hang onto his power—at least until everything comes crashing down.

Questions About Power

  1. If Babo's power is rooted in his ability to pretend things are normal, what is Atufal's power based on?
  2. Is Delano even aware of the fact he has power? What otherexamples of ingrained power are there in "Benito Cereno"?
  3. Why is Delano so disturbed by the incidents that showCereno's lack of power?

Chew on This

Benito Cereno has more power than he thinks, since he has the ability to sink Babo's plan entirely.

While Babo has power over Benito Cereno, he doesn't exploit it as much as he could.

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