Benito Cereno Analysis

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When Herman Melville wrote “Benito Cereno”, he used the phrase “follow your leader” repeatedly throughout the story. This poses the question: who is the leader? It would seem, based on context during different situations, “the leader” changes continuously throughout the duration of the story and provides different meanings based on who the leader is interpreted to be. The whole plot never seems to truly have one significant leader, but a rather cloudy group of possible leaders. It seems that Melville intentionally begins the story with the presentation of the idea of “the leader”. The paragraph from this section of the story is: Rudely painted or chalked, as in a sailor freak, along the forward side of a sort of pedestal below the canvas, was the sentence, “Seguid vuestro jefe,” (follow your leader)… (Melville, 167) At this point the title of “leader” belongs to a canvas-covered figure—perhaps indicating the haziness that will be “the leader” throughout the rest of the story. However, by the inclusion of the Spanish translation, the reader can initially be led to believe that the leader in question is of a Spanish descent. At this point Benito Cereno, the Spanish captain of the ship, is introduced. By this reasoning, Don Benito must then be the leader being referred to, which gives him the preconceived disposition as a strong, self-reliant, and powerful character when he is, in fact, quite the opposite of this description. As he is quickly determined to be a rather
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