Benito Cereno

In many stories, the main characters carry the plot of a story throughout the book. The author often expresses the message that he desires the reader to receive through their thoughts and actions. Yet, the minor characters often have a large affect on the outcome of the book, although it is not quite as obvious to the reader. By altering the thoughts or actions of the main characters, a seemingly minor player in a novel may actually, at closer examination, be an important player in the plot. In the short story Benito Cereno, by Herman Melville, the minor character, Atufal, largely influenced Captain Delano, who is a main character. Delanos assessments and opinions aboard the Spanish ship were greatly affected by Atufal, which therefore had an effect on the plot and ending of the story.

Captain Delano began to suspect that something on the ship was irregular, and then an incident with Atufal put all of his rightful suspicions to rest. Atufal, a minor character in the novel, led Captain Delano to become confused about what was truly happening aboard the San Dominick. As Delano first boarded the ship, he noticed several incidents that did not seem quite right. For example, he witnessed a young Negro boy hit a young white boy over the head with a knife (159), receiving no reaction from other people on the ship. Because he assumed that the whites were in control of the ship, Delano thought that it was quite strange that none of the Spaniards were upset by this disrespect of a white boy by a Negro. Atufal was brought out on the deck of the ship in front of Benito Cereno to ask his pardon. The prisoner Atufal refused to do so, and he was returned into captivity. Captain Delano viewed this situation to be somewhat unjust. What, pray, was Atufals offense . . . if it was not something serious . . . remit him of his penalty(163). Delano felt sympathy towards the Negro, and questioned Don Cereno as to why he was treating the slave with such cruelty. Atufals performance caused Delano to believe that Cereno was in control of the happenings on the boat, and that his prior concerns about the role of the Negroes on the San Dominick should be put to rest.
Delano did not do much more than shortly entertain the idea that the blacks were, in fact, in control of the Spanish vessel because of what he witnessed in the situation of Atufal. Atufal affected the plot because he caused Delano to doubt his suspicions, which therefore played a major role in the actions of this main character. The observations of Atufal by Delano greatly helped to form his attitude towards the Negroes upon the ship. The supposed cruelty of Don Cereno towards the slave Atufal created an image of obedience by the blacks in Delanos mind. Delano thought, But the Negroes were too stupid (177). Perhaps if Atufal had not implanted images of white supremacy aboard the ship, Captain Delano might have acted sooner in helping to return the ship to Benito Cereno.
In the classic story Benito Cereno, by Herman Melville, the minor character Atufal greatly affected the opinions of the main character, Captain Delano, which therefore plays a major part in the plot. Many times attention is not paid to the minor characters of a novel; however, they are essential to the development of the story. Unlike many of the other minor characters in the story, Atufal portrays the image of white-over-black domination. Without the misleading of Captain Delano by Adufal, the mystery and suspense of what was truly happening aboard the San Dominick would not have been built up. Although the important roles of these seemingly minor people in the novel are not often noticed, the story of Benito Cereno never would have taken place without them.
Delanos opinions and assessments of situations throughout the story are changed in no small way by these minor characters, which therefore alter the plot of the novel.

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Atufal, a minor character in the novel, led Captain Delano to become confused about what was truly happening aboard the San Dominick. Another minor character, the Negro woman with her child, also altered Delanos opinion of the Negroes on the boat. Adufal and the Negro woman affected the plot because they caused Delano to doubt his suspicions, which therefore played a major role in the actions of this main character. In the classic story Benito Cereno, by Herman Melville, two minor characters greatly affect the opinions of the main character, Captain Delano, which therefore plays a major part in the plot.


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