January 29, 2007

One in the Same, Alike but Opposite

Whether this haggardness had aught to do with criminality, could not be determined; since, as intense heat and cold, though unlike, produce like sensations, so innocence and guilt, when, through casual association with mental pain, stamping any visible impress, use one seal - a hacked one.
Herman Melville ("Benito Cereno")

Through the eyes of Captain Amasa Delano, Herman Melville's story, "Benito Cereno" looks at two extremes without considering a middle passage. Captain Delano consistently discusses his dread of Don Benito while in his next thought, the frailty of Don Benito.
The reality that Melville seems to be implying through this tactic is age-old - not everything is how it appears. Heat and cold are opposites, but overheating and freezing both produce a similar pain. Heat is black, cold is white, but the pain that results is the same.
Opposites are more closely linked than the endless shades of gray in between. At one end of the spectrum, the opposite end is exactly the same, only backwards. In the middle, there isn't a backwards - you've got to move in either direction before a backwards appears. This gray area in between the two extremes is the tactic that Melville uses in order to make his reader feel the dread and anxiety of Captain Delano. If the story was clear cut in one direction from the beginning, the constant shift of emotions in Captain Delano wouldn't make sense to the reader. The audience sees through Delano's eyes and if the reader didn't, the story would not have invoked any type of anticipation for what was to come.

Posted by Diana Geleskie at January 29, 2007 8:21 PM | TrackBack
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