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What’s Your Perspective?

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  1. Introduction
  2. The third person narration of the story
  3. The push and pull
  4. The shift in narration
  5. Who is the true hero?
  6. Conclusion

Most experienced readers do not have a hard time discerning authorial intent within an individual work or analyzing themes within that piece. Herman Melville's Benito Cereno however, provides a challenge. Melville intricately weaves this story so that no single interpretation fits, and it forces us to interpret further. As Robert Cochran asserts: ?Benito Cereno is a story designed to be misunderstood, and the reader himself is a primary object of the attack? (Cochran 219). Melville utilizes elements of color and metaphor to set the mood, yet allows the theme to be discerned by the reader. The most confusing, interesting, and important element in this piece is the perspective of the narrator. The narration of the story, more than the events is what dictates our interpretation of it. We spend most of the story in the mind and path of Captain Delano, and because of this limitation the reader is forced to maker her own conclusions about the events on the ship and who truly is the hero.

[...] Once the narrator establishes that trust, more poetic language is introduced creating mystery and shadow: sea, though undulated into long roods of swells, seemed fixed, and was sleeked at the surface like waved lead that has cooled and set in the smelter's mould? (2669). Mary Rohrberger, in her article ?Points of View in Benito Cereno,? claims that statements of fact reveal what the narrator is willing that the reader should know, but the metaphors suggest implications of which the reader at this time must remain ignorant? (Rohrberger 543). [...]


[...] All of this builds to the point at which the whole plot is revealed. Once part of the true plot is revealed and Delano successfully saves the lives of Benito Cereno and his crew, the narrator removes us from the head of Delano because his perspective is no longer necessary to ensure reader involvement. Following this epiphany, and the capture of the negroes, the narrator takes us through a deposition that Melville used to serve multiple purposes: serves first to detach the reader from the viewpoint that has successfully tricked him and which he might be somewhat loathe to continue to accept. [...]

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