4. Benito Cereno by Herman Melville (Chapter 2: The Gordian Knot)

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

This is my reading of chapter 2 of "Benito Cereno" by Herman Melville.

Please note that this is part 4 of the series on this novella.

Part One I created an introduction for the text.

Part Two I have read Chapter 1: A Ship in Distress.

Part Three I have created a summary of Chapter 1 and a Closer Look into that chapter.

Please note that the Chapter breakdown and titles are my own creation they are not Melville's. I have broken it down this way to make it easier to digest. 

Up next will be a summary of Chapter 2 as well as a closer look into the chapter.


Benito Cereno

by Herman Melville

Chapter 2: The Gordian Knot

At this moment, with a dreary grave-yard toll, betokening a flaw, the ship's forecastle bell, smote by one of the grizzled oakum-pickers, proclaimed ten o'clock, through the leaden calm; when Captain Delano's attention was caught by the moving figure of a gigantic black, emerging from the general crowd below, and slowly advancing towards the elevated poop. An iron collar was about his neck, from which depended a chain, thrice wound round his body; the terminating links padlocked together at a broad band of iron, his girdle.

"How like a mute Atufal moves," murmured the servant.

The black mounted the steps of the poop, and, like a brave prisoner, brought up to receive sentence, stood in unquailing muteness before Don Benito, now recovered from his attack.

At the first glimpse of his approach, Don Benito had started, a resentful shadow swept over his face; and, as with the sudden memory of bootless rage, his white lips glued together.[pg 147]

This is some mulish mutineer, thought Captain Delano, surveying, not without a mixture of admiration, the colossal form of the negro.

"See, he waits your question, master," said the servant.

Thus reminded, Don Benito, nervously averting his glance, as if shunning, by anticipation, some rebellious response, in a disconcerted voice, thus spoke:—

"Atufal, will you ask my pardon, now?"