"Billy Budd" By Herman Melville Essay

1410 words - 6 pages

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were perfect. They were innocent and ignorant, yet perfect, so they were allowed to abide in the presence of God. Once they partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, however, they immediately became unclean as well as mortal. In Billy Budd, the author, Herman Melville, presents a question that stems directly from this original sin of our first parents: Is it better to be innocent and ignorant, but good and righteous, or is it better to be experienced and knowledgeable? I believe that through this book, Melville is telling us that we need to strike some kind of balance between these two ideas; we need to have morality and virtue; we need to ...view middle of the document...

Here then, is presented a man with a personality and character to contrast and conflict with Billy's. Sweet, innocent Billy immediately realizes that this man is someone he does not wish to cross and so after seeing Claggart whip another crew-member for neglecting his responsibilities, Billy 'resolved that never through remissness would he make himself liable to such a visitation or do or omit aught that might merit even verbal reproof'(31). Billy is so good and so innocent that he tries his hardest to stay out of trouble. 'What then was his surprise and concern when ultimately he found himself getting into petty trouble occasionally about such matters as the stowage of his bag...which brought down on him a vague threat from one of [the ship's corporals]'(31).These small threats and incidents establish the tension between Claggart and Billy, and set the stage for a later confrontation. They also force Billy to search for help. The person he goes to is yet another type of character presented in this book. Red Whiskers. Red Whiskers was an old veteran, 'long anglicized in the service, of few words, many wrinkles, and some honorable scars'(31). Billy recognizes the old Dansker as a figure of experience, and after showing respect and courtesy which Billy believes due to his elder, finally seeks his advice, but what he is told thoroughly astonishes him. Red Whiskers tells Billy that for some reason, Claggart is after Billy, but Billy cannot believe it because he is so innocent and trusting. Through this situation Billy now finds himself in, Melville has us ask ourselves a question: Would it be right for Billy to heed the advice of experience and wisdom and tell the captain about Claggart's conspiracy? Or should he instead keep his mouth shut and try to work things out himself?Being the good person that he is, Billy tries to forget about it and hopes that it will pass, but it does not. And that is where the fourth of these few characters comes in. Captain Vere, with his love for knowledge and books, and '... his settled convictions [which stood] as a dike against those invading waters of novel opinion, social, political, and otherwise, which carried away as in a torrent no few minds in those days, minds by nature not inferior to his own'(25-26). Vere is a man who believes in rules, regulations, and procedure. In his opinion, everything must be done according to instruction, and deviation from that set way of thinking and operation is wrong. This way of thinking is illustrated as Melville commits what he calls a 'literary sin':In this matter of writing, resolve as one may to keep to the main road, some bypaths have an enticement not readily to be withstood. I am going to err into such a bypath. If the reader will keep me company I shall be glad. At the least we can...

Find Another Essay On "Billy Budd" By Herman Melville

Billy Budd by Herman Melville Term Paper over the Short Story Billy Budd, his life, why he wrote the book, and religious symbolism

6016 words - 24 pages BILLY BUDD, SAILORBY HERMAN MELVILLEIn December 1885, Herman Melville finally retired from his job at the New York Custom House. Unable to support himself through his writing, he had been working there for 19 years as a customs inspector. He was 66 years old, and he had not written fiction in almost 30 years, though he had been writing and publishing poetry steadily. At some point during the following two years, he began to work on a poem that

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

Billy Budd - Thoreau and Melville

1167 words - 5 pages Billy Budd - Thoreau and Melville   The story of Billy Budd provides an excellent scenario in which to compare and contrast Thoreau and Melville. The topics of government-inspired injustice and man's own injustice to man can be explored through the story. Thoreau's position is one of lessened government and enhanced individualism, while Melville's is one of group unity and government's role to preserve order. The opinions of

Comparing Billy Budd and the Life of Melville

1508 words - 6 pages fighters during the Revolutionary War and Melville was of age 42 when the Civil War erupted. Melville also spent a large part of his life as a sailor. Although he never participated in the war in any official capacity, we see evidence of how the Civil War was of glaring significance in his life by examining Billy Budd and most of his other works. Politics were an important factor in the life of Herman Melville. Although he was known to never

Benito Cereno by Herman Melville

807 words - 3 pages Benito Cereno by Herman Melville In many stories, the main characters carry the plot of a story throughout the book. The author often expresses the message that he desires the reader to receive through their thoughts and actions. Yet, the minor characters often have a large affect on the outcome of the book, although it is not quite as obvious to the reader. By altering the thoughts or actions of the main characters, a seemingly minor

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

980 words - 4 pages Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville Herman Melville, an American novelist and major literary figure explored psychological themes in many of his works. Herman Melville was born in 1819 in New York City into an established merchant family. The family's fortune had taken a decline that led to bankruptcy and caused insanity to enter into his father's Life. Through his writing, Melville recreated a part of life that

"Bartleby, the scrivener" by Herman Melville

696 words - 3 pages Have you ever tried to provide help for someone who refused it at the end? There is no doubt that the help becomes meaningless, even though the person is really eager to give a hand. In the short story "Bartleby, the scrivener" by Herman Melville, the narrator, a lawyer, who was considered as an "eminently safe man" (56). He dealt with the business that took few risks and believed that the easiest path in life was always the best. The lawyer was

Billy Budd, Sailor, by Harrison Hayford and Merton M. Seaths

696 words - 3 pages ; however, he is missed by all those who knew him. Additionally, the master-at-arms Claggart, is properly buried after being accidently murdered by Billy; but not idolized like Billy, by the ship mates aboard the Billipotent. Finally, the question of whether a murderer can be a passive hero is a surprising, yes, from the prospective of the narrator. Works Cited Hayford, Harrison and Merton M.Jr. Sealts. "Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narritive)." Melville, Herman. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. Ed. Sarah Lawall. 8th. Vol. 2. New York: Norton, 2006. 2 vols. 931-985.

Weak Authority in Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

1419 words - 6 pages to go mad and into isolation. The lawyer tried to help Bartleby, but he refused every time and ultimately dies under the tree in prison. Bartleby is a symbol of isolation; whereas the lawyer is a symbol of weak authority and Herman Melville, author of the book, himself. Melville wrote the novel after he realized his career was on the verge of a break down, yet instead of Melville facing his troubles and the difficulties he ran to Europe. Such

A Capitalist World in Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville

888 words - 4 pages Erick Garza Professor John Dean ENGL 2327 201 9 April 2014 The Good Samaritan In Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” we are introduced to a capitalist world, a capitalist world in which an economic system controlled by private owners with the goal of making profit in the market economy exist. The story is narrated by a man mostly known as “The Lawyer”, the “elderly man” who seeks God’s acceptance by his so called “kindness” shown to

Bartleby, the Scrivener a Short Story Written by Herman Melville

2117 words - 8 pages “Bartleby, the Scrivener” is an intriguing short story written by Herman Melville for Putnam's magazine at a time when Melville was in need for money to support his family, shortly after the failure of Pierre in 1852 (Davis 183). The narrator of the work, who is also a practicing lawyer, opens with a description of himself, his employees, and the fact that his business has recently grown. Soon after, the narrator, hires an additional employee

Similar Essays

Billy Budd, By Herman Melville. Was Captain Vere Right?

577 words - 2 pages CaptainVere makes the right decision by executing Billy Budd. If CaptainVere lets Billylive the rest of the crew might get the impression that they will not be held accountable fortheir crimes. If the crew feels that they can get away with what ever they want then thereis a chance that they might form a rebellion and have a mutiny. A mutiny would destroythe stability and good name of the ship and the crew. Captain Vere does not want to seethis

Study Guide For "Billy Budd" By Herman Melville

1060 words - 4 pages murderer. This is ironic because his deathly action was unanticipated by the reader. The irony continues throughout the story as Billy Budd dies. There stands a monument at the place Billy was hanged. Billy dies in defeat, but he comes back as a living symbol.-Paradox-Paradox is defined as "a statement actually self-contradictory or false." Captain Vere stands for what is right and orderly. It is right for God to spare the innocent, but wrong for

Billy Budd By Herman Melville Examine The Theme Of Institutional Conscience Versus Private Conscience In Billy Budd

793 words - 3 pages authoritative embodiment was institutional conscience, or manmade laws to uphold order and justice. In the novella Billy Budd, Herman Melville presented a dilemma of private conscience and institutional conscience through the events onboard a British warship during the late eighteenth century. In the civilized society created by men, institutional conscience prevails over private conscience.Billy Budd became the spoil-of-war in the conflict between

"Billy Budd, Foretopman" By Herman Mellville

761 words - 3 pages Captain Vere Deals With his Burden of KnowledgeOn the ship, Indomitable, in Billy Budd, Foretopman, by Herman Mellville, Vere, the captain, gains the burden of knowledge, much like a man who finds a dying deer on the side of the road. Once he examines the deer, he realizes it bears child and must decide what to do with it. Captain Vere sees Billy, the foretopman, kill Claggart, the master-at-arms, albeit even by accident, he must decide what to