Incidents In Life Of A Slave Girl And Herman Melville's Benito Cereno

1808 Words8 Pages
Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno show significant consistency throughout their narratives in regards to linguistic patterns of darkness and other words that correspond to darkness, such as shadows, clouds, and storms. However, their uses are dissimilar considering Benito Cereno is a theatrical novella and Incidents is a typical, but nonetheless powerful, slave narrative. Melville uses Benito Cereno as a tactic to steer the readers mind through three types of narration, multiple possibilities of interpretation, and the lingering question of which audience Melville is speaking to. In contrast, Jacobs is a very reliable, straightforward narrator who does everything to avoid any interpretation…show more content…
After the revelation of the masquerade, Captain Delano attempts to console Cereno by evoking imagery of hope, or light: “see, yon bright sun has forgotten it all, and the blue sea, and the blue sky; these have turned over new leaves” (Melville 106). After the deposition, Delano brings back light and brightness to Cereno, whose distrust supersedes any of nature’s reassurance. Delano is embodying notions of truth and illumination and nature itself is shining on him, therefore, all doubt is cast aside. However, this is not true for Cereno who carries a shadow of doubt with him due to his embedded experience of an elaborate charade carried on by what he would see as nature’s dark side, African slaves. This is portrayed when he associates his “shadow” with “The negro” (107). “The negro,” Babo, and the blackness of his skin are human categories for identity and are the shadows that haunt Cereno. The phrasing Cereno uses in this quotation depicts Babo in an artificial way, which therefore, could not be a shadow cast by nature and is apathetic to the human shadow cast by Babo during his performance in the
Open Document