Benito Cereno by Herman Melville the Theme Term Paper

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Benito Cereno" by Herman Melville

The theme of racial inequality in "Benito Cereno" by Herman Melville

The novel "Benito Cereno" (1856) by Herman Melville is a literary work that contemplates and depicts the issue of slavery and racial discrimination, which is a social problem that existed and is promoted by nineteenth century Western society. In the novel, Melville presents his own opinion about the said issue, illustrating the detrimental effects that slavery and discrimination results to the welfare of the white people, who are oppressors of the black slaves. By presenting a situation wherein white and black people experienced a "reversal of roles" in the novel, Melville conveys an effective message where he leaves his audience reflecting on the issue and resolution arrived at by the end of "Benito Cereno."

In depicting the theme of slavery and racial discrimination, Melville utilized three important elements in the novel, namely the character of
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Benito Cereno, the setting of the sea, and the symbol of a human head placed on a pole on the boat. These elements are used to effectively convey racial discrimination and the danger and threat it poses for the reigning Western society during Melville's time.

The character of Benito Cereno is the most remarkable element utilized in the novel, primarily because he embodies the whole of Western society, who tolerates and promotes slavery for their own economic benefit. However, it is also evident in the novel that Benito assumes a dual character, in which he is both the oppressor and oppressed. As the captain of the ship, Benito serves as the representative of the white people, whose role in society is to assume a more superior and higher social status than the slaves, who are the black people. Benito's other persona as the "slave" or prisoner of Babo, demonstrates Melville's personal thoughts on the slavery system, in which the oppressors are considered brutal and violent, in the same way that Babo is characterized as domineering over Benito.…

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