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Melville's "Benito Cereno" - Literary Concepts and Conflicts

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Herman Melville - "Benito Cereno" Literary concepts in Benito Cereno - "What is romantic about the text?" In Benito Cereno, Melville picks up four of the most central literary concepts that came up during the romantic period: The concept of truth, nationalism, nature, and individualism. As far as the concept of truth is involved, the reader in Benito Cereno has a rather active part; he has to seek for the truth. Having a close look at the text, one can observe several indications that underline that the reader has to seek for the truth himself. The use of words and phrases like "almost", "this seemed to prove", and "it might have been" (1119) by the author show that even the narrator questions the truth. In the third major part of Benito Cereno, the author begins the first sentence with the important and crucially important word "if": If the Deposition have served as the key to fit into the lock of the complications which precede it, the, as a vault whose door has been flung back, the Sun Dominick's hull lies open to-day. ...read more.


Reading "Benito Cereno", one can onserve that there is only one individual truth that is being transported through the text. Furthermore, truth and reality is constructed in the imagination of the individual. Another important romantic feature that is to be found in "Benito Cereno" is the concept of nature. Right at the beginning of "Benito Cereno", Melville uses this concept to give an outlook on the story itself: "Shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come." (1118) The last obvious romantic element in "Benito Cereno" is nationalism. Reading the story while keeping in mind the current situation in America at that time, it becomes obvious that Melville picks up the situation in America and provides a statement towards it. Therefore, one could argue that in "Benito Cereno", Melville takes a rather anti-American side in arguing against slavery. Conflicts in Benito Cereno - "What conflicts can be found in "Benito Cereno?" In "Benito Cereno", several conflicts occur: White Vs. ...read more.


Therefore, as mentioned earlier, it is of utter importance that the reader is aware of this fact while reading the story. This conflict is emphasized by another one, the conflict between focalizer and narrator where the narrative perspective in all three parts of "Benito Cereno" differ from each other. Another important conflict that comes up is the one between male and female characters: "One, from about eighteen to nineteen years, named Jos�, and this was the man that waited upon his master, Don Alexandro, and who speaks well the Spanish, having served him four or five years; ... a mulatto, named Francisco, the cabin steward, of a good person and voice, having sung in the Valparaiso churches, native of the province of Buenos Ayres, aged about thirty-five years.... [...] ;... and thirty-nine women and children of all ages." (1164) It is remarkable that while all male characters are described in detail including their name, age, occupation, and characteristics, the female characters are not described at all, only mentioned in one sentence while the male characters are featured in a whole paragraph. ...read more.

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