Benito Cereno

by

Herman Melville

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Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Benito Cereno published in 2016.
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Benito Cereno Quotes

Considering the lawlessness and loneliness of the spot, and the sort of stories, at that day, associated with those seas, Captain Delano’s surprise might have deepened into some uneasiness had he not been a person of a singularly undistrustful good nature, not liable, except on extraordinary and repeated incentives, and hardly then, to indulge in personal alarms, any way involving the imputation of malign evil in man. Whether, in view of what humanity is capable, such a trait implies, along with a benevolent heart, more than ordinary quickness and accuracy of intellectual perception, may be left to the wise to determine.

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

In armies, navies, cities, or families, in nature herself, nothing more relaxes good order than misery.

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

To think that, under the aspect of infantile weakness, the most savage energies might be couched—those velvets of the Spaniard but the silky paw to his fangs.

Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

At last, puzzled to comprehend the meaning of such a knot, Captain Delano addressed the knotter:—

“What are you knotting there, my man?”

“The knot,” was the brief reply, without looking up.

“So it seems; but what is it for?”

“For some one else to undo,” muttered back the old man, plying his fingers harder than ever, the knot being now nearly completed.

While Captain Delano stood watching him, suddenly the old man threw the knot towards him, saying in broken English,—the first heard in the ship,—something to this effect—“Undo it, cut it, quick.”

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Knot
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

All this is very queer now, thought Captain Delano, with a qualmish sort of emotion; but as one feeling incipient sea-sickness, he strove, by ignoring the symptoms, to get rid of the malady.

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

Am I to be murdered here at the ends of the earth, on board a haunted pirate-ship by a horrible Spaniard?—Too nonsensical to think of! Who would murder Amasa Delano? His conscience is clean.

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano (speaker), Don Benito Cereno
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

There is something in the negro which, in a peculiar way, fits him for avocations about one’s person. Most negroes are natural valets and hair-dressers […]. There is, too, a smooth tact about them in this employment, with a marvelous, noiseless, gliding briskness, not ungraceful in its way, singularly pleasing to behold, and still more so to be the manipulated subject of. And above all is the great gift of good humor. Not the mere grin or laugh is here meant. Those were unsuitable. But a certain easy cheerfulness, harmonious in every glance and gesture; as though God had set the whole negro to some pleasant tune.

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano (speaker), Don Benito Cereno, Babo
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

At home, he had often taken rare satisfaction in sitting in his door, watching some free man of color at his work or play. If on a voyage he chanced to have a black sailor, invariably he was on chatty, and half-gamesome terms with him. In fact, like most men of a good, blithe heart, Captain Delano took to negroes, not philanthropically but genially, just as other men to Newfoundland dogs.

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano, Babo
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

“The castle and the lion,” exclaimed Captain Delano—“why Don Benito, this is the flag of Spain you use here. It’s well it’s only I, and not the King, that sees this,” he added with a smile, “but”—turning towards the black,—“it’s all one, I suppose, so the colors be gay;” which playful remark did not fail some- what to tickle the negro.

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano (speaker), Don Benito Cereno, Babo
Related Symbols: Flags
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Is it possible, thought Captain Delano; was it to wreak in private his Spanish spite against this poor friend of his, that Don Benito, by his sullen manner, impelled me to withdraw? Ah, this slavery breeds ugly passions in man.—Poor fellow!

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano (speaker), Don Benito Cereno, Babo
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

That moment, across the long-benighted mind of Captain Delano, a flash of revelation swept, illuminating in unanticipated clearness his host’s whole mysterious demeanor, with every enigmatic event of the day, as well as the entire past voyage of the San Dominick. He smote Babo’s hand down, but his own heart smote him harder. With infinite pity he withdrew his hold from Don Benito. Not Captain Delano, but Don Benito, the black, in leaping into the boat, had intended to stab.

Both the black’s hands were held, as, glancing up towards the San Dominick, Captain Delano, now with the scales dropped from his eyes, saw the negroes, not in misrule, not in tumult, not as if frantically concerned for Don Benito, but with mask torn away, flourishing hatchets and knives, in ferocious piratical revolt.

Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

If the Deposition have served as the key to fit into the lock of the complications which precede it, then, as a vault whose door has been flung back, the San Dominick’s hull lies open to-day.

Related Characters: Don Benito Cereno
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

“You generalize, Don Benito; and mournfully enough. But the past is passed; why moralize upon it? Forget it. See, yon bright sun has forgotten it all, and the blue sea, and the blue sky; these have turned over new leaves.”

“Because they have no memory,” he dejectedly replied; “because they are not human.”

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano (speaker), Don Benito Cereno (speaker)
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:

“You are saved,” cried Captain Delano, more and more astonished and pained; “you are saved; what has cast such a shadow upon you?”

“The negro.”

Related Characters: Captain Amasa Delano (speaker), Don Benito Cereno (speaker)
Page Number: 136-137
Explanation and Analysis:

Some months after, dragged to the gibbet at the tail of a mule, the black met his voiceless end. The body was burned to ashes; but for many days, the head, that hive of subtlety fixed on a pole in the Plaza, met, unabashed, the gaze of the whites; and across the Plaza looked towards St. Bartholomew’s church, in whose vaults slept then, as now, the recovered bones of Aranda; and across the Rimac bridge looked towards the monastery, on Mount Agonia without; where, three months after being dismissed by the court, Benito Cereno, borne on the bier, did, indeed, follow his leader.

Related Characters: Don Benito Cereno, Babo , Alexandro Aranda
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
No matches.