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Billy Budd Essay, Research Paper

There is much to be said about innocence. If one is with

innocence than one can do no wrong. But that is not all to be said.

Innocence is not always a good thing. It could make one naive or blind

to certain evils. Like in the case of Billy Budd. Billy was innocent

from evil and therefore could not see the evil of John Claggart

approaching him, out to destroy him. It is known Billy’s innocence was

his down fall by hiding the true evil from his eyes. But why was John

Claggart out to destroy Billy?. There are several reasons why John

Claggart attempts to destroy Billy Budd.

John Claggart wants to destroy Billy because he is extremely wary

of Billy’s intentions. He has come to believe that Billy is planning a

mutiny and wants to take over the ship. Claggart reports this to

captain Vere saying,” During today’s chase and possible encounter I

had seen enough to convince him that at least one sailor aboard was

dangerous.” Meaning that he felt Billy was against them. Claggart felt

that Billy’s big plan was to get in favor of all the men on the ship

and then turn them against the captain. Captain Vere responds by

having Billy and Claggart meet in private where Claggart can openly

accuse Billy of this crime. Fortunately, Claggarts attempt to destroy

Billy for mutiny fails because he is struck down by Billy in one blow,

ending the matter, but opening a much more serious one.

Claggart is also seen as attempting to destroy Billy due to his

evil nature in general. Nothing depicts Claggart’s evil nature better

than the way he looks. His cleanly chiseled chin and cunning violet

eyes that can cut lesser sailors with an evil glare. His pale yellow

skin and jet black curly hair; they all contrast his character. He is

out to destroy Billy because of the constant struggle of good and

evil. Billy is innocent and cannot comprehend evil therefore making

him good. People calling Billy “baby budd, and handsome sailor” just

seem to contrast the good in him even more. Claggart was born evil and

therefore is evil. Claggart would naturally be out to destroy Billy

because he is what he is against. Just good vs. evil in a battle for

control. That is why Claggart is naturally out to bring the downfall

of Billy Budd.

It is very true that jealousy is another reason why John Claggart

wanted the destruction of Billy Budd. Claggart was never well liked by

the crew he was watching over. This would not have been a problem

except that Billy Budd was so very liked by the crew. Every time he

saw the love of Billy he was reminded of the dislike of himself. One

old sailor on the ship noticed this too and warned Billy by saying,

“Jimmy Leggs is down on you”. Jimmy Leggs referring to Claggart. One

instance which occured in the kitchen just made matters worse when

Billy spilled the soup he was making and it ran down the corridor just

as Claggart was walking by. Claggart did not openly get angry at Billy

for the accident, but inside felt he had done it on purpose. As the

soup ran down the corridor it seemed to symbolize an actual line drawn

between the two. The resentment Claggart felt for Billy made him look

him too critically. That is a good reason why Claggart could have

thought Billy was planning a mutiny and would want him destroyed. He

was just jealous of Billy’s popularity.

There are several reasons why John Claggart attempts to destroy

Billy Budd. One might ask why and come up with the obvious and not so

obvious answer, even though we know the real reason for his downfall.

That was his innocence. Yes, Billy Budd was innocent of evil, but that

innocence is what made him unable to see the evil out to destroy him

in Claggart. Too much innocence is not always a good thing, but a

little helps from doing wrong. There is quite a bit to be said about

innocence.


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