What Would You Do If You Were In Delano's Shoes?

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From Herman Melville's "Benito Cereno" in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:

"Here he paused; his hand to his head, as if there were a swimming there, or a sudden bewilderment of memory had come over him; but meeting his servant's kindly glance seemed reassured, and preceeded..." (498).

This is the part when I caught on to the fact that something fishy (no pun intended) was going on.  I was tipped off because Don Benito hesitated before he answered the question, met the "servant's" glance, and then preceeded. 

What I found so weird was the fact that Captain Delano kept having these suspicions about Benito and the ship, but he stayed.  He was wrong about Benito but was right to be suspicious.

Instead of a normal question, I'll ask a fun, hypothetical question.  Put yourself in Delano's shoes.  What would you have done when you saw the broken down ship?  Would you have gone or would you have stayed on your own ship and let them be?  Would you have given your supplies to the ship?  Write a short synopsis of your own take of Melville's story.

6 Comments

Derek Tickle said:

What a great question! If I were in Delano's shoes then I would have alerted my fellow crew members and told them that there may be a danger ahead or on the other hand a helpful crew. I do not think that I would have gone to Cereno's ship because of the uncertainty that was involved in doing so.

As for the supplies, I would have waited until I knew what was up the sleeves of this Captain Cereno and his slaves.

I think that the story is written very well and has a great story line, but if this were a real life situation, then I would have considered my actions before doing so. As you know, in today's world, there is much fear and worry when doing anything in a strange atmosphere.

Take New York City, for example, and put yourself in the center of it. Now say you have never been there or experienced the fast-paced movement of that culture. Before choosing your answers or actions, you probably would take a step backwards and think.

The same type of reaction should have been considered from Captain Delano. Although, he was a kind person in approaching Captain Cereno's ship, he remained fearful and worrisome of their actions.

Greta Carroll said:

I can certainly see what Derek is saying, what with the lack of a flag flying from the ship and all. The whole thing seemed awfully suspicious from the very beginning. But, if I were Delano, I think I would have went over to the other ship and offered my help. After all, the ship looked like it was in trouble. However, I certainly would not have went alone like Delano did, I think I would have taken at least a few other crew members with me in case something bad happened. I would have shared some supplies with them as well. But I think my help would have ended there. As soon as I saw people cleaning rusty hatchets and Don Benito acting so strangely, I think I would have gotten off that ship as fast as I could. Especially when Delano was having so many misgivings and doubts, I would not have stuck around to see what would happen next. But then again, if he hadn’t, Don Benito wouldn’t have been saved and we wouldn’t have the rest of the story.

Exactly, Greta! In order for there to be a story, we have to bend the normal conventions of human nature sometimes. In this case, however, I think I would have also gone over to see if help was needed. When Cereno asked me about how many men I had with me, and other personal questions, I would have drawn the line and decided that I would leave ASAP.

Delano is sort of uncharacteristically dumb. He had clear warning signs that things were amiss and he still stayed. What, then, is Melville's purpose in creating such a knuckle-head?

Derek Tickle said:

I believe that Melville may be trying to protray how anyone can lend a hand to help someone else whether they know them or not.

Do you think that Delano is representing that people should not worry about race or gender, but should care about helping people in anyway?

Greta Carroll said:

I think Delano’s bumbling helpfulness to Don Benito serves to show his racism and his oblivion to its very existence. Melville gives us this character, Delano, who so stupidly wants to help Don Benito that he doesn’t even act on the warning signs of danger and leave. Yet, at the same time, his racism is engrained in his psyche so much that he doesn’t even consider the hardship of the slaves around him. He considers himself to be kind and good because he shares his water supplies with them, yet when it comes to the food, he doesn’t want to give it to them. So I think Melville’s portrayal of Delano’s “helpfulness” was meant to be ironic, since after all it was only the white Don Benito that he offered to help.

Jenna said:

I thought that Delano was a little too friendly in helping out the ship. I do not know proper “ship etiquette,” but I would have been leery. I would have approached the ship and asked if everything was all right while staying on my big boat, instead of rowing out to the ship. The fact that flags were used to identify ships and that Benito’s ship did not have a flag made me suspicious.

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