In the text Benito Cereno, Herman Melville brilliantly utilizes literary tactics of superstition, omission, and speculative language as a means of illustrating the obstinate mindset of Captain Amasa Delano, while being in a precarious position, continued to squash any doubts he had about the shady circumstances of the San Dominick and reaffirm “the appearance of things” at face value. Delano observes Don Cereno’s odd behavior, the tension between crew and slaves, and the explanation that just does not add up concerning the alleged “gales” responsible for their unfortunate conditions, yet cannot seem to pick up on the overwhelming evidence that something has gone awry.
DuBois’s concept of the veil is expertly employed in the text to exemplify how the white man’s perception of the Negroes overrides his ability to see behind the “veil” of deception right in front of him, even when it threatens to dissemble on numerous occasions. He continually regards Babo as dutiful valet, loyal to his master Don Cereno, if not a little outspoken. Even though the whites triumph at the end by putting an end to the mutinous slaves, it is important to note this was not because Captain Delano’s astuteness in decrypting the façade aboard the San Dominick. The underestimation of the blacks was a grave one, parallel to the events that had transpired during the inception of the Haitian Revolution. Melville’s Capt. Delano states and restates what he believes as the inferiority of the blacks, their “inherent” stupidity and biological pre-disposition for enslavement by the whites. He observes Afatul, the black in chains, as being a powerful force presently subdued, an ironic observation considering Afatul was indeed only playing a part of a prisoner.
The additions and exaggerations implemented by Melville in this tale, as opposed to the events it is based on, are deliberately used to display the barbarity of the blacks when true state of dis/order is reveled. The whites are cast in a sympathetic light and Babo’s strategic planning and execution is downplayed and unappreciated, if even from a military stance, again to be compared with the betrayal and dishonor administered to Toussaint Louverture, largely due to the dynamics concerning race that were/are still present.