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The Sequels Of Billy Budd Essay

1002 words - 5 pages

The novella Billy Budd was written by the American novelist Herman Melville. Throughout the story, the reader is repeatedly introduced to the concepts of morals, and integrity. Melville himself referred to this idea as “The Art of Telling the Truth.” Billy demonstrated the injustice for the common man, as well as the honorability of accepting the consequences for ones actions. Melville argues in his three final chapters that the common man receives no justice in society, and the farther time passes, the more injustice one receives.
The first glimpse of injustice that the reader is introduced to happens early in the story, is when the reader learns that Billy “had entered the King’s service, ...view middle of the document...

It is this innocence that Melville uses to describe Billy to the readers as a common man.
Although Melville is stating that the common man receives no justice through his characterization of Billy Budd, he is also implicating that the farther time passes from an event, the more it loses it’s truthfulness and, in essence, loses a grasp on reality, while venturing into pure fiction. In the second sequel the Navy writes a newspaper article to diffuse the situation of Billy killing Claggart. The News from the Mediterranean reports “he, Claggart, in the act of arraigning the man before the captain, was vindictively stabbed to the heart by the suddenly drawn sheath knife of Budd” (Melville 2521). This inaccurate depiction of the event shows that only after a short time has passed, situations can become augmented to reflect a preferred viewpoint. Not only does this show the lack of reality, it also shows how Billy, the common man, received no justice, even after his death. In her article, Karcher quotes Melville in saying ‘“a misguided attempt to ‘pervert the national victory into oppression for the vanquished” (346). The quote proves how Melville felt after the Civil War, which is said to have a strong impact on his writings.
Another example of the lack of justice and augmentation of reality is the Ballad that the Sailors write in Billy’s memory. The ballad, “Billy in the Darbies,” may give more justice to Billy than the newspaper article, but it also distorts his memory as well. The song transforms Billy from a real, respectable, innocent, common man into a dark, almost romantic version of himself. The lyrics state: “But ‘twill die in the dawning of Billy’s last day. A jewel-block they’ll make of me tomorrow, Pendant pearl from the yardarm-end” (2523). That further exemplifies the exuberant amount of compassion shown toward Billy, to the...

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