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Biily Budd By Herman Melville Appearance Vs Reality

999 words - 4 pages

The True CharacterUsually, one would judge others at first sight by their appearance and first impressions then make an initial inference about them. Through the interaction and conversation one had with people, they might not be able to decipher between what was the truth and what was untrue. Herman Melville, through his novel Billy Budd conveyed the theme of appearance versus reality in the novel's three main characters. In the beginning of the novel, Melville portrayed each character with distinct personality; Billy Budd was represented as the simple-minded sailor, Claggart was viewed as the villain, and Captain Vere was seen as the honorable superior of the ship. As the novel developed, the earlier images of these characters were contradicted as previously unseen traits of each character were revealed. Throughout the novel, the characters' appearances differed from their inner selves.John Claggart was kind and friendly to Billy in appearance but in reality a villain planning to destroy Billy. On the outside, he was clean- living, calm, rational, "a man of high quality, social and moral..."(P30). However, he only showed kindness toward Billy to mask his unkind intentions. He applied all the powers of his intelligent mind to bringing about his hateful purposes in secret. When Billy approached, Claggart would "step aside a little to let him pass, dwelling of a Guise. But upon any abrupt unforeseen encounter a red light would [flash] forth from his eyes like a spark from an anvil in a dusk smithy." (P51) Also, "when Claggart's unobserved glance happened to light on belted Billy...that glance would follow the cheerful sea-Hyperion with a settled meditative and melancholy expression, his eyes strangely suffused with incipient feverish tears. (P51) The quotes contradicted Claggart's actions upon seeing Billy and his true evil face behind Billy. Claggart's job was master-at-arms aboard the Indomitable, but in fact what he did was spy on the crew of the lower gun decks. He was supposed to report any infringement of the rules no matter how small. "His place put various converging wires of underground influence under the chief's control, capable when astutely worked through his understrappers of operating to the mysterious discomfort, if nothing worse, of any of the sea commonalty."(P32) In addition, what blinded Billy was Claggart's inborn evil, not seen merely by his appearance. "With no power to annul the elemental evil in him, though readily enough he could hide it; apprehending the good, but powerless to be it..."(P42) Claggart embodied evil, he understood goodness, but was powerless to embrace it. In turn, he was jealous of Billy's moral perfection and wanted to destroy him secretly.Billy Budd the handsome sailor appeared to be a strong and flawless man. However, he was characterized by disturbing innocence and weakness to defend himself because of the stutter that led to his death. Although a fully grown man with strong...

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