12 Matching Annotations
  1. Oct 2018
  2. allred720fa18.commons.gc.cuny.edu allred720fa18.commons.gc.cuny.edu
    1. “Because they have no memory,” he dejectedly replied; “because they are not human.” “But these mild trades that now fan your cheek, do they not come with a human-like healing to you? Warm friends, steadfast friends are the trades.” “With their steadfastness they but waft me to my tomb, Señor,” was the foreboding response. “You are saved,” cried Captain Delano, more and more astonished and pained; “you are saved: what has cast such a shadow upon you?” “The negro.”

      In terms of the relationships between slave-owners and those enslaved, there were occasionally situations where the relationship between the two carried weight in a different, less animalistic vein.

      Although some slaves were enslaved for their entire lives, there often were deals made between the slave-owner and their victims. Generally the deals were for their labor in exchange for their freedom. However, it would generally take years and years to meet the satisfaction of the slave-owner, and in more tragic cases, they would attempt to recant or modify their deal. Sometimes these deals for freedom would be changed in order to accommodate the slave-owner. For example, a deal where they agreed to grant a family their freedom would be met with only granting the children their freedom, and keeping their mother captive. Or, certain deals were that their freedom would be granted upon the owner's death, leaving their freedom in their will. This situation is how the Dred Scott case (mentioned above) unfolded, because upon his owner's death, Scott sued the owner's wife for freedom.

      What draws the relationship between Benito Cereno and Babo into question is this conversation. One should speculate on how Benito Cereno felt in regards to Babo's care for him. Did he have the intention of freeing Babo eventually in exchange for his "companionship?" Given the nature of the scenario, there was nothing he could do to prevent Babo's fate. However, he clearly finds regret in how this whole situation played out.

      Two years prior to the release of Benito Cereno (1853), the case of Robin Holmes v. Nathaniel Ford took place in Oregon, United States. The problem was that Ford had promised the Holmes family freedom once they finished helping him start up his farm. Upon completion, they expected to be freed, but instead he kept their four children and planned to sell them back to Missouri. What is confusing here is that their relationship wasn't entirely aggressive until the final moments of the contract.

      Benito Cereno did not have a say when it came to the court's rule over Babo's life. If the story ended with them alive, would Benito Cereno have released Babo into freedom, or in only attempt to use him further once back in the position of power? Would the phrase "follow your leader" be flipped?

      Lockley, Fred. “The Case of Robin Holmes vs. Nathaniel Ford.” The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, vol. 23, no. 2, 1922, pp. 111–137. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20610207.

    2. –One, from about eighteen to nineteen years, named José, and this was the man that waited upon his master, Don Alexandro, and who speaks well the Spanish, having served him four or five years; * * * a mulatto, named Francesco, the cabin steward, of a good person and voice, having sung in the Valparaiso churches, native of the province of Buenos Ayres, aged about thirty-five years. * * * A smart negro, named Dago, who had been for many years a grave-digger among the Spaniards, aged forty-six years. * * * Four old negroes, born in Africa, from sixty to seventy, but sound, calkers by trade, whose names are as follows:–the first was named Muri, and he was killed (as was also his son named Diamelo); the second, Nacta; the third, Yola, likewise killed; the fourth, Ghofan; and six full-grown negroes, aged from thirty to forty-five, all raw, and born among the Ashantees–Matiluqui, Yan, Leche, Mapenda, Yambaio, Akim; four of whom were killed; * * * a powerful negro named Atufal, who being supposed to have been a chief in Africa, his owner set great store by him. * * * And a small negro of Senegal, but some years among the Spaniards, aged about thirty, which negro’s name was Babo; * * * that he does not remember the names of the others, but that still expecting the residue of Don Alexandra’s papers will be found, will then take due account of them all, and remit to the court; * * * and thirty-nine women and children of all ages.

      The ship that Herman Melville based this entire story on, the Tryal, carried about 70 West African slaves. Although their origin was altered, the number of passengers noted here may be close to accurate. Many passengers were lost during what was believed to be a two-year voyage (Grandin). The article below provides a lot of context in terms of the original story of Benito Cerreño.

      Grandin, Greg. “Who Ain't a Slave? Historical Fact and the Fiction of 'Benito Cereno'.” Chronicle.com, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 16 Dec. 2013, www.chronicle.com/article/Slavery-in-FactFiction/143551.

    3. –That on the fifth day of the calm, all on board suffering much from the heat, and want of water, and five having died in fits, and mad, the negroes became irritable, and for a chance gesture, which they deemed suspicious–though it was harmless–made by the mate, Raneds, to the deponent in the act of handing a quadrant, they killed him; but that for this they afterwards were sorry, the mate being the only remaining navigator on board, except the deponent.

      One thing that should be taken into consideration is how Babo is being treated in this court setting. One could consider that these men acted in a barbaric manner, but they were enslaved and saw a way out. Desperation triggers animalistic instincts. As far as the violence factor and how it affects the court setting, would they be treated any different if they did not act the way they did? Look at the Dred Scott v. Stanford (1857) case, which took place only two years after Benito Cereno was published (1855), and a staggering 50+ years after the events of this story take place. Dred Scott did everything in a professional manner, and even one his initial case. However, the Supreme Court reversed it based on a technicality. So, this begs the question: In the eyes of the court justice system, is there a difference between Babo and Dred Scott?

      Arenson, Adam. “ Dred Scott versus the Dred Scott Case The History and Memory of a Signal Moment in American Slavery, 1857–2007.” The Dred Scott Case, 2010, pp. 25–46., doi:10.1353/chapter.236750.

    4. Declaration of the first witness, DON BENITO CERENO.

      The gear shift in point of view is a little odd. The reader has to figure out who is telling the story from the start, and the abrupt changes in perspective make it less reader-friendly in terms of navigating the text smoothly. Nowhere near impossible, but for the reader who is looking for a casual read, this would not be it.

    5. that when a mulatto has a regular European face, look out for him; he is a devil

      It took me a couple reads to realize that he is referring to a biracial person as the devil because it isn't clear where they stand in terms of the race hierarchy. Given how Babo is manipulating this situation, imagine what kind of chaos a white-passing person of color could induce with their ulterior motives. I find it pretty crazy that people who are biracial still experience certain biases because of it all.

    6. with the strange vanity of a faithful slave, appreciated by his master,

      The phrase "faithful slave" was an incredible oxymoron to find within this text. The term "vanity" was problematic in itself because it perpetuates the idea of slave essentially being products with specific traits/features. As for "faithful slave," they didn't have much of a choice. If they attempted to escape to freedom they would just be brought back or murdered if unsuccessful. Then, when he writes that he was "appreciated by his master," it shows that often these slaves were showed little to no appreciation for their brutal work. This just supports the idea that slaves are animalistic. They're essentially considered to be cattle who wouldn't understand the appreciate, so why should the owners give it? This whole description was just horrific.

    7. “Follow your leader.”

      This whole "follow your leader" motto is super interesting. Although we consider it to be Benito Cereno's motto during the early stages of the story, we quickly learn that Babo was the leader all along. Eventually, Babo faces his tragic ending, followed by Benito Cereno shortly after. So in reality, was Cereno following Babo's orders without any desire to retaliate in any way for personal reasons? The answer appears to be obvious, but considering the ambiguous nature of their relationship, I question whether Cereno was a legitimate hostage in this situation.

    8. Some months after, dragged to the gibbet at the tail of a mule, the black met his voiceless end. The body was burned to ashes

      No matter how many time's I am exposed to this tale, it does not get any easier to decipher. Melville is a master of manipulation in terms of text and the plot, and because of that I have trouble truly perceiving how he feels about these slaves? The density of the text can make it difficult to understand where his commentary is aimed. However, I want to believe the correlating relationship between Babo and Benito Cereno signifies that Melville had a more progressive point of view.

    1. Certainly there exists a pleasure of the work (of certain works)

      I feel as though "(of certain works)" is trivial considering the obvious factor that this whole idea is very subjective?

    2. In fact, reading, in the sense of consuming, is far from playing with the text. 'Playing' must be understood here in all its polysemy: the text itself plays (like a door, like a machine with 'play')

      Uhhh, I'm sorry sir, but how do you read something and not play with the text? Just looking for commonalities and literary device could be considered "playing" so?

    3. the work can be held in the hand, the text is held in language, only exists in the movement of a discourse (or rather, it is Text for the very reason that it knows itself as text);

      Would text on a hand-held device not be considered cultural or language then? Weird.

    4. The Text is not to be thought of as an object that can be computed.

      Okay, but think about reserving your treasured classics. Archiving and creating digital copies is a way to immortalize these texts. Also, text mining opens us up to so many other possibilities in terms of understanding a text, as well as the writer behind the text. I know Barthes is pretty far back in terms of how far technology has evolved but still there was a lot of potential. I need to end this comment before I keep going.

      All in all, Computing + Text = Harmony.