"Benito Cereno" contains some of Herman Melville's most vivid action writing, though the action is all suspense and premonition until the climax. Why this story hasn’t been more widely acclaimed remains a mystery, as it captures the imagination of a 'young reader' in a tighter grip than Billy Budd. Joseph Conrad's famous story of the Congo was written decades after Melville's story of a mutiny, and it's extremely unlikely that Conrad was thinking of Benito Cereno when he wrote Heart of Darkness, but the two extended stories have a lot in common: scenes of human depravity, ambiguities about good and evil, nightmarish descriptions, an atmosphere of suspended horror. More historically-informed readers will surely guess the mystery of Captain Cereno's behavior on his ghastly ship long before the good-natured American Captain Delano. Readers of Melville's era, recalling the news of the ship Amistad, would have guessed even quicker and more certainly. In fact, the tension between the reader's aroused suspicions and the benevolent opacity of Captain Delano is at the core of the reading experience. The 'Good' seldom have much insight into the "Wicked". But wait, don't rush to judgment about wickedness when you read Herman Melville! Is mutiny a greater wickedness than slavery, and is violence in the act of self-liberation less or more justified than violence in defense of property? And is Captain Delano's good-natured racism, based on his assumption that blacks are docile and unintelligent, not the basis for his nearly disastrous lack of acumen? Babo, the ringleader of the mutiny, may be a horrid beast in Delano's mind but he's surely the smartest Homo sapiens on the scene, a representation that can't have been unintended by Melville. Apparently Melville used the memoirs of a real Captain Amasa Delano as the inspiration for this spine-tingling story of terror on a becalmed sailing ship. The denouement of the tale is told in the form of court depositions, lending a journalistic credibility to the narrative. Though some critics have found that structure disjointed and anticlimactic, even if that were so, the larger part of the novella is every bit as spooky as Conrad's masterpiece.