144 Untamed

Gabriel McSherry

In Benito Cereno, we are seeing something from a certain perspective where the shades of grey outnumber what’s in the light (what we know). There is far greater mystery to Cereno than The Heroic Slave (not saying there isn’t mystery to Madison Washington). Especially when he turns up in Virginia, you can’t help but be a little pissed that he got caught again and you just want to grab him by the shoulders and yell why?! With Cereno, we are trapped inside Delano’s white 1800s mind full of suspicion and caution, therefore we are limited in perspective, but we can still make assumptions as to what’s going to happen due to who we are now in history. But we can’t be certain until it does. Delano could have just been going crazy in a situation so foreign to him. How can we trust what Delano was seeing if his perspective was so obscure? He chalked it up to cultural differences and kept thinking he saw little suspicions out of the corner of his eye, but those could be nothing! What a captain of a whaler’s ship finds odd could be insufficient. He spent what seemed like forever playing teeter totter with what could be happening. In The Heroic Slave, we are met with more defined space and borders compared to a ship in peril out in a land with no borders. It’s obvious that Madison is a runaway slave and needs to lie low. He’s the one who needs to be cautious of whom to trust, similar to Delano.

These two stories seem to have a common theme of survival in both of them. Sometimes in order to survive, things need to be done that can be ugly. Babo and his fellow mutineers are just trying to survive, yet from Delano’s eyes we see them as bloodthirsty pirates. Keeping Benito hostage I still don’t quite understand. Maybe to sell their situation better? The point is survival is mutual and a human reaction. We need to keep in mind who is telling the story.

The Creole Mutiny describes the aftermath of Madison’s mutiny as they port in Nassau. Because those 19 slaves stood up for freedom, unfortunately they are the ones who will be thrown back in jail but the others on the ship who did nothing were set free. This tells me to never find a port and stay the hell out at sea. The beauty of the ocean in these texts is representing a fresh start to interaction where rules are only as big as the ship you are on. Out on the water, cultures can become blurred together in order to survive and that is a beautiful original way of life to strive for on land. On the ocean, we all become more like passengers of the earth instead of dominating it. No one can farm at sea. It’s untamable.


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

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