“Benito Cereno” were never meant to be read only once. However, it took me some multiple reads into this short novel to make sense of the plot as the book need to be absorbed more than its meant to be read. Based on a true story, “Benito Cereno” was narrated by a very gullible unreliable narrator about a mysterious Spanish slave trade ship and its strange occupants. Like most thing in history about that time, the story basically centered about imperialism, slavery, white man burden, prejudices etc but its also a mystery and riddled with clues if you know where to look which made the story tolerable enough.
I guess the story would interest those who are interested in reading a very difficult writing style with complete unreliable primary POV narrator and have an interest in dominance-submissive relationship of this book. In fact, this book is riddled with all kind of power play which was simply too horrifying to dwell on it too much. Various interpretation of “rape” was the core of this novel.
I would have like it better if there are more clarity in the writing style of this book like Melville did with “Bartleby”. I do think there’s a way to write a rising action scene without the overuse of never-ending sentences. Besides the over comma paragraphs, I was supposed to have let Melville drag me along with his interpretation of the situation because of his familiarity with his nautical experiences. But I don’t think the author nor the narrator offer us some degree of flawed humanity in the situation via the apparent ignorance prevailing until the climax of the story.
This book are meant to be read and reread. Its unavoidable to empathize with this novel to a degree considering that it shows the ugliness and flawed nature in everyone in the book. Its not meant to be likable but it is meant to be digested and its a strong novel like John Steinbeck’s The Pearl but you really need a hard stomach to withstand the underlying message and various interpretations of this book.