Analysis of Critical Essays on Benito CerenoIt is possible to divide the critics into two camps regarding Herman Melville’s purpose in writing “Benito Cereno.” Joseph Schiffman, Joyce Adler, and Sidney Kaplan all argue that Melville wrote the story to make a comment on slavery. On the other hand, Sandra Zagarell and Allan Emery contend that Melville goes beyond slavery and is pointing out other flaws in mid Nineteenth century American notion.”Benito Cereno” tells the story of a slave revolt on a ship at sea.
Schiffman, Adler, and Kaplan argue that Melville wrote the story as a comment on slavery. Schiffman and Adler contend that Melville’s novella is a clear indictment of slavery. Kaplan takes the opposite view.Joseph Schiffman, in his critical essay “Critical Problems in Melville’s ‘Benito Cereno,'” argues that Melville wrote the story from a staunch abolitionist viewpoint. He points to other Melville works to prove his assertion that the color imagery of “Benito Cereno” is reversed from traditional Western thinking of “White is good, Black is evil.” Schiffman points to evidence from other Melville works such as “Mardi” and “Moby-Dick.” He also makes the important point that Delano does not speak for Melville in the story.
However, Schiffman comments that instead, Delano is a “microcosm of American attitudes”. He leaves this thought quickly, however. Schiffman also focuses on the morality of slavery and proclaims Babo the “moral victor in ‘Benito Cereno'” . In a move that none of the other authors make, Schiffman states that Melville “wanted primarily to write a ‘good story,’ one that would sell” . He goes on to note that the subject cannot be separated.