Billy Budd Essay

1116 words - 4 pages

Billy Budd By: Herman Mellville Herman Melville's Billy Budd is a classic tale of innocence and evil. The main force of innocence is constantly attacked by the force of evil until the innocence falters. Through the use of many literary devices, Melville shows how sometimes the obvious results do not always occur when they are being expected. However, he also shows that the force of all that is good and righteous will triumph over evil at the end, even over death. The protagonist, Billy Budd, is the major force of innocence in the book. Billy is a young man who seems to have everything going for him. He is big, strong, handsome, and he has a personality that draws everyone to him. Everywhere he went he charmed people, gaining the respect of those around him. A great deal of imagery is used describing how aesthetically perfect Billy is. Besides Billy's stutter, he seems absolutely perfect. Billy is a sailor. His original ship was the Rights-Of-Man but he later was impressed by the Bellipotent. Here he becomes a foretopman. As usual he charms everyone. They even call him "The Handsome Sailor". On the ship, Billy is respected by everyone except the protagonist, John Claggart. Claggart is extremely jealous and holds considerable amounts of contempt for him. At first he tries to be nice to Billy but soon his true jealousies surface. He begins to scold Billy for insignificant lapses and tries to degrade him. In one instance when Billy spills a bowl of soup, Claggart sardonically says to Billy, "Handsome is as handsome did it." Deep inside Claggart also thinks that Billy is secretly plotting against him. When his madness really begins to take over, Claggart starts thinking of ways to prove Billy to be a traitor. Finally his chance came when a guardsman approached Billy in the middle of the night. He asked Billy if he wanted to join a mutiny effort with all the others that were impressed. He was also offered a bribe. Billy became so angry that he almost threw the guardsman overboard. However, when Claggart heard of this, he immediately ran straight to Captain Vere. Captain Vere was a well-educated, level-headed man. He was stern but he was just. He offered Billy a chance to see his accuser and Billy accepted. When he heard the lies that were being told of him, he went crazy. People had warned him to be careful about Claggart but he did not listen. He became so enraged that all he could do was stutter. Since he was not able to speak, his only defense was to strike Claggart as hard as he could. The blow to his head killed him as he hit the ground. Captain Vere knew that Billy did not mean for him to die but he still calls a trial for murder. Captain Vere knew that Billy was not going to revolt as well but because of the mutinies that had been taking place at that time, Vere did not want to show any weakness. Billy could have probably...

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