February 19, 2007

Insert Mission Impossible music here

I knew that as I read "Benito Cereno" there was something fishy going on. I also could feel the foreshadow, as some of you may remember me say before, that was occuring in the short story. I never even imagined that what I was reading was a sneaky Mission Impossible type plot by Melville to lead us to ambiguity. In her essay, O'Connell states,

The narrator is a shadow figure in "Benito Cereno" who operates in the background, stirring the pot and adding murkiness that appears unnecessary to the plot (unless a crucial plot element is seen to be the creation of confusion, not just Delano, but in the reader as well).

As I read the above passage and the essay previous to this statement I couldn't help but here the Mission Impossible theme song playing in my mind as O'Connell described the subterfuge that the narrator provides the reader. Now, as I was reading "Benito Cereno" I couldn't help but be confused. The sentences where insanely long, there were a ton of commas, and the wording was thick and hard to cut through. All I could think of was, "Man I wish I was a better reader because I'm obviously not getting this." Now I'm being told that this is what Melville wanted from us all along? Darn you Melville, is what I'm thinking now.

O'Connell defends Melville when she says that it was just a device to make the reader feel what it must have been like to be Delano saying:

Instead, "Benito Cereno" structures and encourages misreadings so that the eventual discovery that one has been duped has the effect of revealing to the reader his or her complicity with Delano's most egregious and self-serving assumptions.

Point taken, Ms O'Connell. I feel duped, I feel stupid, but to my defense I did feel the foreshadowing!

O'Connell, ''Narrative Collusion and Occlusion in Melville's 'Benito Cereno''' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by Tiffany Brattina at February 19, 2007 4:30 PM | TrackBack
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