Benito Cereno - Justified Evil

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Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno” contains many different underlying themes, one of which includes the evils of slavery. Melville shows this in Cereno as he “ attempts to strike a balance between people divided by race and class, thus speaking to the new multiracial readership of popular works on slavery” ( Melville 18). Slavery can bring out the evil in individuals when they try to gain dominate control over someone. The same can be said about the slaves about the San Dominick merchant ship. Babo, acting as the leader of the revolt, ordered the brutal slaying of any non useful sailors. The blacks aboard the ship become the masters to the remaining Spaniards. Babo begins to use many of the same actions a white slave owner would do to a black slave. Melville shows “this slavery breeds ugly passions in man” (Melville 77). Since slavery in itself is evil, it can be argued that the “evil” actions of someone while under the direct effects of slavery can be justified. Just because a person commits evil acts, it does not make the person evil as long as they truly believe they are justified in their acts. The slaves aboard the San Dominick were peaceful people in their home land but were forced into a fit of violence as they attempted to escape slavery. The slaves threw Spanish sailors overboard while they were still alive and attacked the crew with hatchets and knives. Babo doesn’t have all of the sailors killed. He keeps the ones alive that he needs to most. Benito Cereno’s life is speared because he is captain and he is able to navigate the slave to get to where they need to go. When a slave owner needs slave to make an example out of, they don’t use their strongest slave. They don’t want to damage useful property. One of the Spaniards that Babo wanted to make an example out of is Don Alexandra Aranda, the slaves master. Babo doesn’t actually carry out any
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