February 18, 2007

Melville, You Liar

"The narrator is a shadow figure in 'Benito Cereno' who operates in the background, stirring the pot and adding murkiness that appears unnecessay to the plot (unleess a crucial plot element is seen to be the creation of confusion, not just in Delano, but in the reader as well)" (O'Connell 191).

I admit, I fell for it. Melville, you rat, you got me again. You made me believe the story was about slavery, you made me believe in Delano. Now I see, that was all part of your master plan. Point: Melville.

Melville crafted a sneaky little narrator in "Benito Cereno", one who adds a confusion to an seemingly straightforward story. "It's about slavery, right?" we all thought. Sadly, this just proves that we are not the "ideal" reader Melville had in mind when creating his novella. The "ideal" reader would have seen right through the narrator's trick and understood right away how the audience was made to trust Delano through a series of carefully crafted description and obersations. However, I am anything but the "ideal", took the bait, and trusted the narrator like a good little reader. Why then, Melville, would you create a story just for the "ideal"?

Because he wants to see us try, fail, and then try again (like Buddhist enlightenment?). As O'Connell describes in "Narrative Collusion and Occlusion in Melville's 'Benito Cereno'", "...[is is] extremely easy for an actual reader to fall into the position scripted for the reader within the text" (188). He had a plan for us all along! The narrator was written to obscure the truth, to make the reader dig deeper into the text, and look beyond the obvious into the meaning of the text. Melville is trying to make us "ideal" readers, those who can see what the text's actual purpose. Sadly, I wish I would have known this trick earlier- I could have read so much more into the story.

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

Posted by VanessaKolberg at February 18, 2007 1:04 PM | TrackBack

Now you're getting all historical with your beliefs that Melville was a Buddhist, Vanessa...

Whenever you read anything now, I'm sure you'll think of other ways that things could be interpreted, aside from your initial thoughts. I know I certainly will. We will not be tricked again! Muahahah!

Posted by: Valerie Masciarelli at February 19, 2007 9:47 PM
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