Herman Melville and the American National Sin: The Meaning of 'Benito Cereno, Kaplan
The events of a story by themselves do not always clearly reveal the writer’s judgment on those events; bare plot does not mechanically provide its interpretation.
I see a little bit of Hirsch in Sidney Kaplan. He uses the “Genetic Criticism” method to strengthen his argument about the meaning of Benito Cereno. To Kaplan, Melville had to know his surroundings, the political and social climate of the time to create this short story. So if he had to know his surroundings , it would make sense for us to know it as well. Not to use a lot of quotes in this blog but I have to add this one… Keesey stated before the Kaplan article that “it is the task of the literary historian, however, to discover not what the reader may want the story to mean, but what its author meant.” It is not up to us to know…it is up to Melville. To Kaplan and Hirsch, a historical background will get us closer to Melville, therefore to his meaning. I stated in my last blog that I do not believe that this is the only way to critique a literary work. But a historical viewpoint is a nice background to start off with the author’s intention. To end with what Melville wrote “a skeleton of actual reality to build about with fullness & veins & beauty.