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Benito Cereno Short Summary


This is a novella by the author Herman Melville. It was first published mid-1855 and later adapted into a film later in 1967. It is a story about slavery. It also portrays the American attitude when it comes to black people. It takes place on a slave ship from Spain where Benito Cereno is a captain.

The Plot Summary

Amasa Delano, a captain, sees a ship on the water and decides to board it and investigate. He meets the ship’s captain Benito Cerano. He notices that there are a lot of black people and fewer Spaniards on it. Delano comes to learn that there had been a powerful fever spreading on the ship that killed a great number of Spaniards as compared to the black slaves. Delano is racist and does not acknowledge this abuse. He does not realize that the slaves had killed the owner and had gone ahead to take control of the ship, and Cereno is terrified. Cereno’s ‘servant’ is an actual the leader of the ship, and he was pulling strings while ensuring that Cereno stays in line.

Delano notes how Cereno shows reluctance in punishing his slaves. Cereno informs him about the harsh weather conditions they encountered near Cape Horn which forced them to throw out some supplies overboard. Delano sends some of his men to fetch supplies. Cereno explains that the Ship’s owner had agreed it was safe for slaves to roam free. Cereno passes out, and the servant Babo tends to him, which makes Delano admire how dedicated the man was. Delano loans three of his men to Cereno to assist him in getting the ship underway.

Delano notices violence in this ship and how the captain Cereno was doing nothing about the instances. Babo makes Cereno inquire about Delano’s crew, and Delano answers honestly not suspecting anything. Suspicion arises when Babo nips Cereno while shaving him. Delano tries to secure a private chat with Captain Cereno. However, Babo makes it impossible for them to be alone. Furthermore, Cereno declines an invitation to Delano’s ship.

Delano becomes angry and finally decides to take his leave. Cereno dives right into Delano’s whaleboat, and some of his men follow him. Delano then sees Babo, and some slaves follow. Babo charges right at Cerano with hostile intent, but Delano’s men overpower him. Delano learns what was going on there. He then sees the corpse of Cereno’s ship’s owner after a sheet covering it falls off. Babo is detained, and then Delano organizes some men to reclaim this ship.

Babo is later given a death sentence that involves him being beheaded and the rest of him gets burned. Babo’s head gets put on a stake and then gets placed near where the original slaves’ owner was buried. Cereno lives for some months in a monastery. He later dies.

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