Literature and History: The Development of American Culture to 1865

BENITO CERENO

After our discussion in class, I still can’t help but think of the last paragraph where Babo’s head was put for display. How can his head/face be as Meville describes? It may not have been meant to be taken as literally but if we take the other sentences in the paragraph as it is, shouldn’t this make sense too? The direction of where his head is displayed is quite clear. Babo’s head was facing towards the St. Bartholomew’s Church where late Captain Aranda was buried and across the Rimac bridge towards the monastery where Cereno was. How can this one head face toward both these places? If they are in the same direction, how is the head able to look toward both places? The head is at one height and even if these places are at an uneven height (where one is taller than the other), how does this lifeless head gaze toward them? I understand with the Whites’ gaze because the people look at the head but with a lifeless and faceless head (how can his eyes be open?), how is it all possible? I keep trying to imagine it but I really find it hard to picture.

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One response

  1. I don’t think we’re meant to take this too literally (though I think uneven height could explain it in a literal way). I think Babo’s gaze is supposed to be a reminder to Aranda and Cereno, even in their deaths. But more importantly. it seems like it’s supposed to be a reminder to us, the readers. Imagining his gaze staring down the two men who tried to make him a slave is important. They both died as a result of their involvement in the slave trade thanks to Babo.

    November 29, 2011 at 10:05 pm

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