Billy Budd

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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In the story Billy Budd, written by Herman Melville, there is a pattern of symbolism the author is trying to convey. Melville notes the symbolism of "Innocence" in the character of Billy Budd, a bright-eyed, twenty-one year old sailor in the British Fleet. He notes the symbolism of "Justice" in the character Captain Vere, nicknamed "Starry Vere", a bachelor of about forty, and the captain of the ship Bellipotent. He also notes the symbolism of "Evil" in the character John Claggert, who is the Master-at-Arms on the Bellipotent and envious and jealous of Billy Budd.

Billy was a tall, athletic, and a very handsome sailor in the British fleet. He was very friendly and helpful to everyone. He served as a foretopman on the ship Rights-of-Man, but was later transferred to the Bellipotent. His symbol of "innocence" was noted when Billy witnessed Claggart whip another member of his crew for neglecting his responsibilities, and vowed to fulfill his duties in model fashion so that he would never get into trouble.

You also saw his innocence when Danskar warned Billy that Claggart was out to get him, and Billy disregarded what he was told. Billy was too innocent and trusting to realize that beneath Claggart's calm surface there was a jealous man that was out to ruin his life. Billy always seemed to just accept things the way they were and this eventually lead to his death by hanging.

Captain Vere was the Captain of the Bellipotent and a distinguished sailor, yet unassuming in appearance and manner. You noticed Captain Vere's symbol of "Justice" when Claggart told him that Billy Budd was a very dangerous man who was planning something dangerous among the crew. Captain Vere liked Billy and was surprised by this accusation. He felt the...

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