Study Help Essay Questions

1. Using Benito Cereno as an example, define the following literary terms: point of view, dramatic irony, paradox, dilemma, symbol, motif, detail, tragic flaw, rhetorical question, mood, and theme.

2. Name and evaluate ten different rhetorical devices which operate in Benito Cereno.

3. Discuss the elements and historical significance of Captain Delano’s racism.

4. Enumerate elements of Benito Cereno which demonstrate an insider’s knowledge of ships and seagoing men.

5. Discuss the sources of major allusions in Benito Cereno.

6. Explain how the history of the slave trade serves as a backdrop for Benito Cereno.

7. Analyze Babo’s role in subduing and terrorizing Benito Cereno and his crew.

8. Contrast Ahab, Ishmael, Captain Vere, Claggart, Billy Budd, Tommo, and Melville’s other seafarers with Captain Delano.

9. Explain why a source such as Delano’s autobiography requires detailed critical examination. Account for the work’s value in textual evaluations of Melville’s novel.

10. Explain why no single critique of Benito Cereno can exhaust all the possibilities of its complexity.

11. Analyze a selection of similes from the novel which compare human behavior to something in nature.

12. Compare the texture of the first telling of the story with the deposition that follows.

13. Evaluate savage urges as they apply to the usurpation of the San Dominick.

14. Recount events during Melville’s lifetime which prove that the New World must pay a penalty for building an empire on slave labor.

15. Comment on the significance of color imagery in Benito Cereno, such as the name San Dominick, derived from the founder of the Black Friars.

16. Discuss the irony of the name “Benito Cereno,” which suggests benedictus, or “blessed,” and serene.

17. Relate the following quotation by Abraham Lincoln to Melville’s view of slavery: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”