Billy Budd by Herman Melville Research Proposal

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¶ … Billy Budd

Herman Melville's Billy Bud: An Appeal to the Subjective Nature of Justice

Viewed in light of his other novels, Billy Budd is not only Herman Melville's last, but also his most poignant. While every novel from Typee to Moby Dick contain death and the theme of lost innocence in conjunction with sea travel, Billy Budd presents readers with the gruesome image of justice without dilution or interpretation. Through an examination of Billy Budd's character and the description of his death, readers can quickly understand that, through the conclusion of Billy Budd, Herman Melville suggests justice is a subjective process that can quite often be unfair in its very fairness.

From the beginning of the novel, the description of Billy Budd is nearly godlike in its brilliance. Indeed, his physical appearance is quite striking. Melville introduces Billy Budd as the "Handsome Sailor," suggesting that he "was more or less of a mighty boxer or wrestler" (1354). He is also noted as having "a superb figure, tossed up as by the horns of Taurus against the thunderous sky" (1354). Apparently, rumor of his physical superiority had spread along the sea and the shore, as Melville recounts that "tales of his prowess were recited" by those who had heard of his magnificence (1354). Thus, Billy Budd is introduced to the reader as a sailor with little to be desired in his physical makeup. Furthermore, Melville goes on to suggest his excellence in character, stating that "the moral nature was seldom out of keeping with the physical make" (1354). Indeed, as the reader becomes acquainted with Billy Budd's character aboard the ship, this becomes apparent. He makes no complaint upon being impressed into the British army, he is one of the hardest workers on the Bellipotent, and quickly makes friends with many of the ship's crew. The innocence and goodness that Melville has painted upon Billy Budd with his descriptions of the sailor's handsome features and upbeat character are further suggested by Billy's youth. In fact, many sailors call him "Baby Budd" because of his childlike appearance. Indeed Melville writes that "looked… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Billy Budd by Herman Melville.  (2009, February 12).  Retrieved January 20, 2020, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/billy-budd-herman-melville/5611

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"Billy Budd by Herman Melville."  Essaytown.com.  February 12, 2009.  Accessed January 20, 2020.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/billy-budd-herman-melville/5611.