Billy Budd Essay

This provokes the jealousy of John Claggart, one of the ship's officers.

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Now, I was surprised at the disagreement that Bartleby still provokes among critics, but I had no idea that Billy Budd was one of the hot beds of contention in literary criticism. Billy Budd is an impressed seaman serving aboard the British ship Indomitable in 1797.

He is a young man of such sweet naïveté, gentle disposition, great good humor and surpassing physical beauty that he is extremely well liked, even adored.

Those who feel that Melville was trying to demonstrate the injustice of the case maintain that Vere was insane and site the following passage: Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins?

Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other? In pronounced cases there is no question about them.

But in some supposed cases, in various degrees supposedly less pronounced, to draw the exact line of demarkation few will undertake thoí for a fee some professional experts will.

Billy Budd Essay

There is nothing namable but that some men will undertake to do it for pay.The essay Billy Budd and Capital Punishment: A Tale of Three Centuries (H.Bruce Franklin, Rutgers) makes a strong enough case for me to accept that Melville was indeed addressing the issue.Billy is so flabbergasted that he is unable to speak and when the Captain prompts him to defend himself, Budd lashes out at Claggart and kills him with one punch.Given the climate in the fleet, Vere determines to make an example of Billy, so he is tried, convicted and hanged.Whether the story is necessarily an indictment of Capital Punishment remains, for me, an open question.Finally there is a controversy within the community of queer theorists over whether Billy Budd is a homosexual text.Topping it all off, Melville reveals that in later years men collected splinters from the mast: "To them a chip of it was as a piece of the Cross." And the book ends with a sort of hymn about Billy, written by a sailor.Oddly enough, Moby Dick has a climactic crucifix scene too.My brief search of the Internet reveals that there are bitter wrangles over several issues implicated by the story.First, is it primarily about justice and is the punishment itself just?


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