Benito Cereno

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The Razor

In “Moby Dick,” by Herman Melville, he writes about multiple gams between Captain Ahab’s ship, the Pequod, and other ships, yet because of Ahab’s selfishness, these meetings do not last a while unless there is information to be gathered about Moby Dick’s whereabouts. This differs from Melville’s novella, or short story, “Benito Cereno,” in which Captain Delano’s ship, the Bachelor’s Delight, have a gam with Benito Cereno and his ship, the San Dominick. We see a major difference in how Ahab acts and how Captain Delano acts in their meetings with other ships because of Delano’s willingness to help, but this good trait of his is what makes “Benito Cereno” such a good story. He continually tosses hints of a slave revolt on San Dominick to the side because of he gives the benefit of the doubt to Benito Cereno. Some of these rebellion hints include the captives, or slaves, being free from chains, and slaves slashing axes together. The biggest hint though is the razor that Babo shaves Benito Cereno. The razor is very important in this novella because it ties the entire story together as well as signifies multiple things such as power and fear.

The razor symbolizes power, and even perhaps the balance of powers, because this is the first instance in which Babo, one of the slaves onboard the San Dominick, shows his dominance over Benito Cereno by keeping the razor close to Cereno’s neck and eventually cutting his cheek. When this “accident” happens, we hear no apology from Babo, only, “See master- you shook so- here’s Babo’s first blood,” (Melville, p210), which shows that he might have meant to cut Cereno, but also that Babo is willing to make Cereno, and perhaps the rest of his oppressors, bleed more. This is important because Babo draws the first blood and the balance of power is possibly beginning to change through harming Benito Cereno physically and mentally. Although the razor represents power, it also represents the other side of the coin,...
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