The owner of the slaves on board the San Dominick. Not much is known about Don Alexandro, besides the fact that he considered his slaves tractable and did not enchain them during the voyage. Don Aranda is Benito Cereno's longtime friend. After the slave rebellion, Aranda is killed on deck in front of Cereno and the rest of the company. His body is taken into the hold for three days, after which it emerges utterly skeletonized. Don Aranda's skeleton is then fixed, as a warning, in place of the San Dominick's figurehead, along with the inscription "Follow Your Leader".
The Ashanti conjurers
Matiluqui, Yau, Lecbe, Mapenda, Yambaio, and Akim. Following the mutiny on board the San Dominick, these six African warriors assume the role of executioners. They execute many of the Spaniards on board, and are ever at hand should violence be necessary. While Delano visits the San Dominick, they sit along the stairs leading to the poop, sharpening their hatchets ominously.
"A gigantic black" who is extremely dignified in his appearance. He is said to have been a king in his home country. Atufal plays a major role in the mutiny on board the San Dominick and the overthrow of his master, Alexandro Aranda. He is second in his authority only to Babo after the revolt. Upon Captain Delano's appearance, Atufal assumes the role of a disobedient slave, chains and all.
A diminuative slave, property of Alexandro Aranda, who plots and executes a successful mutiny of the San Dominick. Upon being spotted by Captain Delano and the men of the Bachelor's Delight, Babo performs the role of the faithful African slave, all the while ordering Benito Cereno about. Babo is considered by some to be a representation of pure evil: someone given to manipulate appearances for his murderous ends. However, there is no denying that Babo is a brilliant tactician, a visionary, and an inspired performer. In some readings, Babo emerges as a tragic hero, defiant of those who would own him and dignified in his death.
Don Benito Cereno
A Spanish Don and the captain of the San Dominick, which was to have sailed with a transport of slaves belonging to Alexandro Assandro, Cereno's bosom friend. Mid-journey, the slaves revolt, killing most of the whites on board. Cereno survives only to be wholly under the command of Babo. At the story's end, he dies of an unnamed sickness stemming from his experiences on the San Dominick. His character is ambiguous: he appears as a hypochondriac to the blunt-witted Captain Delano, who doesn't realize that Cereno's life is under constant danger.
A smart, middle-aged slave who plays a principal role in the mutiny aboard the San Dominick.
Captain Amasa Delano
Melville's caricature of a Yankee Skipper from Boston. He is extremely trusting and optimistic, and perhaps a little dull. He spends a day on the San Dominick following a slave mutiny, never quite aware that anything is wrong until the truth all but bites his head off. Delano subscribes to a typical "Northern" view of African slaves: he considers them to be naturally good-natured, submissive servants. He spends much of his time aboard the San Dominick condescendingly admiring Babo's performance.
Delano's "chief mate"
An unnamed sailor, the leader of the effort of the men of the Bachelor's Delight to capture the San Dominick. The chief mate has a shadowy past; he is rumored to have been a pirate.
One of the major players in the mutiny on board the San Dominick. He was Alexandro Aranda's steward before the rebellion, and when Captain Delano appears on board the San Dominick, Francesco reprises his role of the courteous, elegant "mulatto." Delano notes that Francesco's face is classically European, even if his color is not.
An old Spanish sailor who attempts to communicate to Delano, during the Captain's day on board the San Dominick, an inkling of the truth that Delano cannot see: that the ship is being run by the slaves. For his attempt, Galgo is "made away with."
An experienced Spanish sailor who is kept alive for his value following the slave revolt aboard the San Dominick. Gandix is killed during the capture of the San Dominick by Delano's men.
One of the four grizzled "oakum-pickers": elderly slaves who watch over the deck of the San Dominick after the mutiny, giving orders and maintaining a low profile.
The monk who administers the oath to Benito Cereno to tell the truth of his experiences at the vice-regal hearing following the capture of the mutinous slaves.
An old Spanish sailor, kept alive after the mutiny on board the San Dominick. Joaquin has tar-black hands as a result of a punishment Babo inflicted upon him.
Don Alexandro Aranda's nineteen-year-old slave and cabin boy. Jose provides much of the inside information necessary to stage the mutiny.
One of the four grizzled elders who overlook the main deck of the San Dominick following the rebellion, picking oakum while maintaining order.
One of the grizzled elders who keeps order on the San Dominick following the mutiny.
One of Cereno's chief mates aboard the San Dominick. He is an expert navigator who, despite his talent, is killed following the slave mutiny for a misinterpreted gesture.
One of the four elders who watch over the San Dominick after the mutiny.
Benito Cereno Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Benito Cereno is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Captain Delano makes mistakes because he is too naive and too trusting. He subscribes to a typical "Northern" view of African slaves: he considers them to be naturally good-natured, submissive servants. He spends much of his time aboard the San...
Babo is a diminuative slave, property of Alexandro Aranda, who plots and executes a successful mutiny of the San Dominick. Upon being spotted by Captain Delano and the men of the Bachelor's Delight, Babo performs the role of the faithful...