"But by this time the cable of the San Dominick had been cut, and the fag-end, in lashing out, whipped away the canvas shroud about the beak, suddenly revealing, as the bleached hull swing round towards the open ocean, death for a figure-head, in a human skeleton; chalky comment on the chalked words below, "Follow Your Leader." (Keesey 519).
Looking at this short-story from a canonical/aesthetical point of view is very difficult, unless you cnosider it from a philosophical approach. It has always been said that "beauty is on the inside", but when one really thinks, in concern to this story, that there is no beauty in one individual. Perception of the human race is completely altered throughout the phases of the story, including the view of race, and the overall view of brutality in one individual. Benito Cereno is a story to me that the art of Melville's tale is completely separated from the morality of his characters or personas for that matter. I can see why looking at this tale from another perspective is important, because every single one of us would take a historical approach about slavery and Melville's time period. But there is more to this literature than just that. I'm not sure if a Canonical approach is that particular way, but as for aesthetics, it can be determined that the perception of beauty and art is very distant from the overall idea of morality, mainly through the eyes of the reader looking at Babo and Atufal, because they were originally viewed as simple, unworthy people, then viewed as equals for a brief part of the tale, then once again, viewed a simple unworthy people (who are barbarians).
The other note I would like to mention is the irony in "follow your leader." We never really know who is the leader. While some would argue that Babo is the leader at the end, he is executed by Captain Delano, which would make Delano a leader. But then if one counters, they could say "Delano was really only an observer the entire time until the end of the book." The question I propose to you is, "Does Melville provide the reader with a true leader? And if so, WHO?"Posted by The Gentle Giant at January 29, 2007 8:10 PM