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ENG250Y1 - M. Melville - Lecture Notes.docx

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Tony Fong

ENG250Y1 – LECTURE NOTES H. Melville's "Benito Cereno" November 25, 2013 Benito Cereno: • Cereno could be the focus of the story • Is an ambiguous character that needs to be further examined; deciphered • Is also misleading, we expect Cereno to be the hero, but he is depicted as a sickly character • To trick us into thinking that he is the agent of the work • During this period, a lot of work was about reading people; are we to trust these characters • Delano is the innocent greeter; inability to see evil in others • This is a work about reading people • During this time, America was perceived as innocent • First three paragraphs: o Story need happen, but in 1805 - deliberate change of the date; could allude to the French Revolution; Napoleon was a small man like Babo is described as having a small stature o Repetition of gray = allegory that not everything is seen as black and white; could be entering into morality; something that is or isn't o Everything "seemed", as if natural, but it's always an appearance or actually is o "shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come" = alludes to the end of the story when Benito just before his dies and refers to Babo as his shadow; we begin with a shadow and end with a shadow o Shadow is dark, like a black man casting over Benito, a switching of roles o Benito is being conflicted with his own ideology December 2, 2013 Delano as an Obtuse Writer and an Unreliable Narrator: •The point is to present a pleasurable text; that is what Delano is looking for or does when he presents his story • Delano is at first upset at Benito for his lack of naval courtesy; therefore he categorizes people as types and expectations and stereotypes •When he meets Babo and sees how obedient the slave is, he comments that he never had a friend like him; but how can you have a slave as a friend if you control the friend? • Page 1128 o Refuses to see evil in people o Is not very critical and reflective •He does have critical judgment however, calling Benito a horrible Spaniard •Delano brings pumpkins, fish and water for the slaves and cider, bread and sugar for the white; the foods for the slaves are raw and natural, the foods for the whites are processed -- require intelligence to be manufactured; already a distinction between the two •Babo mirrors what Delano and what the readers want to see; to reassure both of the world view •The costuming and the acting of the slaves and Benito is unnatural •Benito's costuming is over the top; has a ghost of a sword; ghost of a man; just a prop; the actor is an empty vessel that follows the instructions of the director, the slaves •Page 1160 o Babo shaves Benito, is a sculptor; is given artistry while the white man Benito is just art •Babo presents an easy narrative to read; overly symbolic, but Delano still is unable to read it accurately •Dialogue is al
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