Benito Cereno by Herman Melville

Benito Cereno by Herman Melville

ISBN 978-1-60857-014-0

Grammardog Teacher's Guide contains 16 quizzes for this mystery thriller at sea.  All sentences are from the short story.  Figurative language creates a dark tone, suspicion and suspense (The ship was a slumbering volcano.  The slaves sat sphinx-like while chanting low like bag-pipers playing a funeral march.).  Allusions support the theme of mystery and secrecy (Gordian knots, Guy-Fawkes, freemason and dark satyr in a mask).

PLOT SUMMARY:  Slaves revolt and master and slave exchange places.  The Grammardog Guide to BENITO CERENO features sentences from the short story in 16 grammar, style and proofreading quizzes that reinforce plot, characters and themes.  The plot is based on a true story of slaves overpowering their captives and taking over a slave ship.  An American ship commanded by Captain Delano encounters a wayward Spanish ship at sea.  The sails are tattered and canvas covers the ship’s figurehead, revealing only the motto:  “Follow your leader.”  Delano boards the ship and immediately suspects that something is wrong.  The atmosphere of the crew, the slaves, and the ship itself are creepy.  Benito Cereno, the captain, is a nervous, frightened man who is followed everywhere by a slave named Babo.  The slaves on deck sit chanting while they polish hatchets.  Cereno attributes the poor condition of his ship to an encounter with damaging storms off the coast of Africa.  Delano shares supplies with Cereno’s ship.  Just as Delano and his crew are about to depart, Cereno tries to leave the ship with them but is pursued by a knife-wielding Babo.  The canvas falls off the ship’s figurehead to reveal a skeleton that turns out to be the ship’s real captain Alexandro Aranda who was murdered by the slaves.  Delano’s men win the fight and Babo is taken ashore, tried and executed.  Cereno dies a few months later.

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