134 Stupid Benito Cereno

Marissa Vargas

Most of the texts we have read in this class have been considered National(izing) Literature, but now “Benito Cereno” can be considered a literature text beyond the nation. But to what extent does “Benito Cereno” represent “Literature Beyond the Nation”?

I feel as if I cannot confidently answer this question until I have read the whole story. Although, I can so far say I do believe this text is testing the waters with the whole “literature beyond the nation” thing.

Although Melville is American, and so are some of the characters, this book so far takes place in “Chili,” which is technically “beyond the nation.”

“In the year 1799, Captain Amasa Delano, of Duxbury, in Massachusetts,
commanding a large sealer and general trader, lay at anchor with a
valuable cargo, in the harbor of St. Maria–a small, desert, uninhabited
island toward the southern extremity of the long coast of Chili. There
he had touched for water.”

Captain Delano is traveling the coast of Chili when he runs into a stranded ship full of Spaniards and African Slaves.

This book goes beyond the nation in the aspect that it contrasts America and Europe. it doesn’t just focus on America.

Delano just keeps comparing Europe to America and how we’re so much better than these Europeans. At least that is what I took from it. Instead of focusing on America, American culture and all that it is, this story focuses a lot more on the Spaniards and their every day struggle because, “they aren’t as organized and great as Americans.” Which is pretty much what Delano is getting at.

I cant really put my points/thoughts into proper sentences so I’m going to bullet point my ideas as to why this is “beyond the nation.”

  • This story doesn’t focus on a significant historical era or event in American history whereas some of other texts were based in times of war, imperialism and more.
  • Every other text in this class so far, has taken place on American land at some point throughout the story, but this text (so far) isn’t on American soil at all.
  • Takes place in Chili
  • Focuses more on the Spaniards and African slaves rather than the American characters.
  • There is no type of American imperialism and colonialism.


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The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Marissa Vargas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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