“Benito Cereno” and Manifest Destiny by Allan Moore Emery, Review
English and Literature
Submitted By dinamedo
In his paper “Benito Cereno” and Manifest Destiny, Allan Moore Emery offers a well-structured and informative presentation of the development of American expansionism, placing Melville’s novella in contemporary political and historical context. More specifically, the paper deals with the concept of Manifest Destiny developed in Benito Cereno, which Emery defines as “the mind-set of those many Americans who fancied themselves citizens of an elect nation, destined by Providence to govern the globe” (49).
In his argument, Emery employs an interesting analogy: San Dominick is a symbol of the Spanish empire. Its “disorderliness” stands for the “anarchy” found by American expansionists in Latin America, while this confusion is attributed to Cereno’s incapability as leader and his weak style of command. Delano’s plot to take control of Cereno’s vessel anticipates American interventionism in the Caribbean, it is argued. However, Manifest Destiny is portrayed in an adverse fashion, considering the fact that the invasion of San Dominick is not motivated by the desire to change the condition of the oppressed, but by mere desire for material gain. The term exceptionalism is not explicitly mentioned, but Emery is clearly hinting at it being the justification for territorial expansion. Manifest Destiny is, as claimed by Emery, a mere rhetorical camouflage for a largely political enterprise (54).
Another interesting political instance, according to the author, is when Delano attempts to buy Babo. Emery calls this attempt “embarrassing”, clearly positioning himself as opposing the doctrine of American exceptionalism. This attempted exchange of goods may be seen as a mission to extend America’s democracy in the Western hemisphere. However, Emery immediately points out that Delano scarcely extends democracy to blacks (55). Delano seems, therefore, as a double agent, both a...