Compare And Contrast Billy Budd Versus Bartleby

2073 words - 8 pages

A Comparison/Contrast Analysis of "Billy Budd" and Bartleby"

Several comparisons and contrasts can be made concerning the two stories, Billy Budd and Bartleby, written by Herman Melville. The setting of the two stories reveals an interesting comparison and contrast between the British Navy on the open sea, and the famous Wall Street of New York. The comparison and contrast of characters, Billy Budd, Captain Vere, and Claggart in Billy Budd, and the `narrator' and Bartleby in Bartleby, at times are very much alike, and also very different. The conflict, climax and resolution of the two Melville stories contain similarities and differences. These two stories, on the exterior, appear to be very different, and on the interior are alike, especially if trying to analyze the stories by interpreting the symbolism that Melville may be trying to reveal in his writing. This essay will analyze the similarities and differences in Billy Budd and Bartleby.

The first analysis of these stories will be comparing and contrasting the setting. To compare the setting of the two stories, much like the decline of the British naval supremacy in the world due to over-expansion, and especially mutinies, which were taking place throughout the Navy, mostly because of over worked conditions, extended enlistments, and impressments of non-volunteers, on Wall Street, there was a conflict between wage laborers and capitalists in the form of strikes and violence in the street. The conflict leads to the forming of trade unions to resist the methods of factory production and wage labor. The setting can also be compared because of the limited mention of the surroundings, until the very end when Billy Budd, after being hanged, has his body set out to sea, and Bartleby, in the end, during his death, is sent away to a prison, known as `the Tombs.' A final comparison can be made, that both settings are confined to a relatively small space; Billy Budd on a ship, and Bartleby to an office building.

The setting for Billy Budd is on a British naval ship, sailing on the sea during the late 1700s. This was a critical period for the British Navy. Great Britain was at that time an imperial presence all around the world. This included the Americas, Africa, Australia, India, and the Far East. All these territories had stretched British Naval forces beyond its capacity to govern and control such a huge empire. These complications eventually led to its decline. In contrast, the setting for Bartleby was New York City's Wall Street. During the early to mid 1800s, Wall Street was the center of America's financial and business life. The banking and credit institutions, insurance companies, and the growing stock exchange were all revolutionizing the American economy.

The comparison and contrast of the characters will begin with who the main characters are. In the story of Bartleby, the main characters are the unnamed `narrator,' who is...

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