Benito Cereno and Bartleby the Scrivener

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Benito Cereno and Bartleby the Scrivener Benito Cereno and Bartleby the Scrivener

by Herman Melville

Genre: Fiction

Published: 2014

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BENITO CERENOHerman Melville's controversial 1855 short story Benito Cereno retains its power to move the reader over a century and a half after its publication. The story - which ends with a haunting twist - centers on a slave rebellion aboard a Spanish merchant ship in 1799 and because of its ambiguity has been read by some as racist and pro-slavery and by others as anti-racistThe novella follows a sea captain, Amasa Delano, and his crew on the Bachelor's Delight as it is approached by another, rather battered-looking ship, the San Dominick.Upon boarding the San Dominick, Delano is immediately greeted by white sailors and black slaves begging for supplies. An inquisitive Delano ponders the mysterious social atmosphere aboard the badly bruised ship and notes the figurehead which is mostly concealed by a tarpaulin revealing only the inscription "Follow your leader." Delano soon encounters the ship's noticeably timid but polite Spanish captain, Don Benito Cereno. Delano believes Cereno's assertion that he and his crew have recently gone through a debilitating series of troubles, having been at sea now for an unsettingly long time. Cereno tells of these tribulations, including horrendous weather patterns and the fate of the slaves' master, Alexandro Aranda, who Cereno claims took fever aboard the ship and died. Gradually, however, Delano's suspicions increase, based on his noting Cereno's sudden waves of dizziness and anxiety, the crew's awkward movements and whisperings, and the unusual interaction of the ship's white and black residents.BARTLEBY THE SCRIVENERBartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street first appeared anonymously in two parts in the November and December 1853 editions of Putnam's Magazine, and was reprinted with minor textual alterations in The Piazza Tales in 1856.The narrator, an elderly Manhattan lawyer with a very comfortable business helping wealthy men deal with mortgages, deeds, and bonds, tells the story of a quiet, hardworking legal copyist named Bartleby.One day Bartleby declines the assignment his employer gives him with the inscrutable "I would prefer not." The utterance of this remark sets off a confounding set of actions and behavior, making the unsettling character of Bartleby one of Melville's most enigmatic and unforgettable creations.

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