Don Benito Cereno: No Future without the Past

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A.P. English September 22, 2012 No Future Without the Past

By: Bernice Mojica
“But the past is past; why moralize upon it? Forget it. See, yon bright sun has forgotten it all, and the blue sea, and the blue sky; these have turned over new leaves.” “Because they have no memory,” he dejectedly replied; “because they are not human.” “But these mild trades that now fan your cheek, Don Benito, do they not come with a human-like healing to you? Warm friends, steadfast friends are the trades.” “With their steadfastness they but waft me to my tomb, Senor,” was the foreboding response. “You are saved, Don Benito,” cried Captain Delano, more and more astonished and pained; “you are saved; what has cast such a shadow upon you?” “The Negro.” (pg. 75)

-Melville, Herman. Benito Cereno. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1990

Don Benito Cereno’s epiphany over the mistake of underestimating the Negroes keeps him moralized upon the past, rather than accepting his wrong doings and modifying them into optimistic beneficial accomplishments. To prove that his way of thinking is keeping him from moving on, Captain Delano advices him that, “the past is past; why moralize upon it?” Delano is letting him know that he can’t hold himself back from a great future based on a rotten past. Although selfishness is looked upon as a sinful thought, pleasing one’s self is still considered a good intention. Delano comforts Cereno by indirectly assuring him that he should never regret what has been done, because during the moment of that action, there was always a reasonable purpose to be followed. Those experiences taught him how to become a better human being; hence, if he didn’t go through any of that, he would not have the current regretful feelings he has at the end of the novel. Delano alludes to Benito that if the world is able to metamorphose, then so can he; “See,...
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