Slavery & # 8211 ; Benito Cereno And Douglass? s Narrative Essay, Research Paper
When asking about the comparings and contrasts between Melville? s Benito Cereno and Frederick Douglass? s Narrative of the Life of an American Slave, Written by Himself, the following inquiry about necessarily arises: Can a work of fiction and an autobiography be compared at all? Indeed, the construction of the two narratives differs greatly. Whereas Douglass? s Narrative adapts a typical form of autobiographies, i.e. a chronological order of birth, childhood memories, events that helped determine the storyteller etc. , Benito Cereno is based on a curious three-layered foundation of a cardinal narrative telling the chief events, a deposition defining the events prior to the first portion, and an stoping.
There are other contrasting facets of the narratives that call for attending. Most significantly Benito Cereno? finally? portrays slaves as immorality and Babo as the head behind the craft program that deceives Captain Delano. The ground for this nonreversible representation is of course the fact that we experience the narrative from Delano? s point of position. In the beginning, we perceive Babo as the typical docile, helpful, and faithful retainer so frequently portrayed in other slave characters such as Stowe? s Uncle Tom and Jim in Twain? s Huckleberry Finn. Babo is more than merely a slave ; he is a? faithful chap? , ? a friend that can non be called break one’s back? . And despite all the implicit in intimations of a slave rebellion, Delano does non hold on their significance. Examples are the slaves? intervention of the Spanish crewmans and the tomahawk buffers, but in Delano? s shockable universe, merely the white adult male is capable of gestating programs of? immorality? . And when he? and the reader excessively? eventually sees? the mask torn off, booming tomahawks and knives, in fierce piratical rebellion? , he is embarrassed and? with infinite commiseration he [ withdraws ] his clasp from Don Benito? . From this minute on, Babo is a malign Satan and Melville removes address from Babo? s oral cavity. This strengthen our sentiment of Babo as? immorality? even more, for how can we sympathize with him without hearing his version of the narrative? Apparently, Melville proposes no other option for the reader than to sympathize with the white slave proprietor Don Benito, whom Babo so ingeniously deceives.
This is basically different in Douglass? s narrative. It is written in the first individual singular and offers the reader a really subjective angle. The consequence is a deep felt understanding for Douglass? s state of affairs. When he writes, ? Mr. Covey succeeded in interrupting me. I was broken in organic structure, psyche, and spirit? the dark dark of bondage closed in upon me ; and lay eyes on a adult male transformed into a beast! ? , the agony of the slave Frederick Douglass becomes existent ; something we can hold on, experience, and about touch. Mr. Covey is the worst illustration but all slave proprietors are portrayed as incompatible oppressors of freedom. Even Master Hugh in Baltimore, who is compassionate and bestows Douglass with every bit much freedom as possible, is criticised by Douglass. This is significantly different from Benito Cereno. Here the slave proprietor is portrayed as the marionette of the slaves? a extremely unusual attack? and even though Babo is free in some sense, he is still dependent on Don Benito on his route to freedom. Just as the scenery hiding the San Dominick is ill-defined and Grey, so is the inquiry of who the slave truly is. The text besides suggests this ambiguity, for illustration when it is described how Don Benito? s falling stature is supported by Babo, or the manner Babo has control over the conversation with Delano. In Douglass? s Narrative there is no uncertainty about the relation between slave and slave proprietor, although Douglass, after the battle with Mr. Covey, resolves that? the twenty-four hours had passed everlastingly when I could be a slave in fact? , he still? remained a slave in signifier? . Where Benito Cereno works with extremely symbolic footings, Douglass? s Narrative is straightforward and field when it comes to reading. Jonathan Arac argues that? Douglass? s end? was much less to retrieve the linguistic communication and experience of bondage than to stop them. ? Possibly Douglass? s Narrative was non a literate mom
terpiece, but it was a blast of fresh air for emancipationists and an illustration for his brethren.
Douglass? s battle with Mr. Covey is the turning point in Douglass? s calling as a slave, and in the aforesaid transition lies besides the key to understanding the connexion between the Narrative and Benito Cereno. ? Give me liberty or give me decease? , Patrick Henry said, and it may good be stated that this became Douglass? s mantra. In the 1855 alteration of his Narrative Douglass changed the above-named transition. It ends with this:
I had reached the point where I was non afraid to decease. This spirit made me a freewoman in fact, while I remained a slave in signifier. When a slave can non be flogged he is more than half free. While slaves prefer their lives, with whipping, to instant decease, they will ever happen Christians plenty? to suit that penchant.
Martyrdom. That could really good hold been the result of Douglass? s declaration. And so Babo became one. In an allegorical sense, the rebellion of the slaves on board San Dominick peers Douglass? s battle with Covey. Babo inhales freedom, and though he is a slave in signifier when Delano boards the ship, he is ne’er a slave in fact. With this in head, Babo? s foolhardy leap for freedom into Delano? s boat makes sense ; he prefers instant decease to life in the ironss of bondage. It seems justifiable so that if Benito Cereno had been written from Babo? s point of position, the same transition might hold occurred.
So Babo is sacrificed on the communion table of martyrdom and Douglass additions his freedom. Apparently, this is every bit contrastive as can be but once more, in an allegorical sense, there is a similarity. For although Babo suffers a literary decease, he is the 1 with the last laugh. Don Benito enters a monastery and dies shortly after as a diminished and beaten adult male, while Babo? s? caput [ on a spear ] ? meets, unabashed, the regard of the Whites? .
Slave rebellions are the common subject of the two narratives. Melville plays with the anxiousness Whites had of such and Douglass of its possibility to promote slaves out of their wretchedness. If paraphrased, the terminal of chapter X in Douglass? s Narrative serves as a perfect illustration of this: Douglass describes his Master Hugh prehending the money Douglass had earned ; ? non because he [ Hugh ] earned it, & # 8211 ; non because he had any manus in gaining it? but entirely because he had the power to oblige me to give it up. ? Exchange? money? with? autonomy? and Babo? s right to revolution as that? of the grim-visaged plagiarist upon the high seas? , becomes every bit right as the white adult male? s captivity of inkinesss. In understanding this, Babo turns into a true hero? albeit a literate one? on a degree with Nat Turner, Madison Washington and others. His pursuit for freedom and his battle to accomplish it deserves to be remembered, merely as Douglass is remembered today.
BibliographyArac, Jonathan, ? Narrative Forms? in The Cambridge History of American Literature, Sarcvan Bercovitch, ed. , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995 ; 1996 pp 6xx-7xx
Douglass, Frederick? Narrative of the Life of an American Slave, Written by Himself? in The Norton Anthology of American Literature? , Nina Baym? [ et Al. ] , ed. , New York: Norton, 4th ed. , shorter, 1995, pp 885-916
Melville, Herman? Benito Cereno? in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Nina Baym? [ et Al. ] , ed. , New York: Norton, 5th ed. , shorter, 1999, pp 1134-90
Sundquist, Eric J. ? The literature of Expansion and Race? in The Cambridge History of American Literature, Sarcvan Bercovitch, ed. , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995 ; 1996, pp 2xx-326
– & # 8211 ; – . To Wake the Nations? Race in the Making of American Literature. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1993
Yellin, Jean Fagan? Black Masks: Melville? s Benito Cereno? in American Quarterly, Volume 22, Issue 3, Autumn 1970? pp 678-689
The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, William Andrews & # 8230 ; [ et Al. ] , ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Angela Partington, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1941 ; 1992