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Billy Budd Essay, Research Paper

Billy Budd: Perfect Character In Unjust Microcosm An allegory is a symbolic story. Herman Melville’s Billy Budd is an example of an allegory. The author uses the protagonist Billy Budd to symbolize a superior being who has a perfect appearance and represents goodness. Melville shows the reader that a superior being can be an innocent victim of evil and eventually destroyed. In, Melville’s Billy Budd, the main character is an allegorical figure who symbolizes all goodness in men. Billy Budd’s image is symbolic. He symbolizes one who is perfect in appearance. Budd is strong and handsome. He is the center of attention and compared to the “Handsome Sailor.” (THAAL, pg. 2512) Melville uses an allusion to compare the “Handsome Sailor” and the eye of the constellation Taurus. His comparison also shows that Billy, like the “Handsome Sailor,” is popular. Also, the comparison with the “Handsome Sailor” shows Billy as a handsome character. A comparison is also made between Billy and a “mighty boxer or wrestler.” (THAAL, pg. 2513) The author wants the reader to see that Billy has strength as well as beauty. He also goes on to make an allusion between “young Alexander”, Alexander the Great, and Billy to create an image of a powerful figure. (THAAL, pg. 2513) Melville compares Billy’s physical appearance to that of Alexander the conqueror creating an image of a superior being. Billy is an “honest soul” and wants simple peace and quiet. (THAAL, pg. 2514) The simple peace that he seeks may represent the romantic view of a noble savage, who has goodness because he is untainted by the corruption in society. Melville has interest in the noble savage and creates Billy Budd to represent this idea. Billy seems naturally good with no sins in his character. He lives a simple and serious life. For example, when Claggart makes fun of him, Billy does not understand the “humor” in his statement. (THAAL, pg. 2532) Another example that shows Billy’s simple character fearfully witnesses a flogging. Billy has never experienced punishment and is afraid of this unknown. He is also naive about evil. When told, by the Dansker, that Claggart, the master at arms, is down on him, Billy is doubtful of the Dansker’s words. He replies by saying: “What for? Why he calls me the sweet and pleasant young fellow, they tell me.” (THAAL, pg. 2531) Billy does not seem to be aware of the existence of evil.

Billy’s execution was a wrongful punishment of a perfect character. He was “nothing more than innocent.” (THAAL, pg. 2536) Claggart, the master at arms, is a man who represents the evil in Billy Budd. The master at arms, for an uncertain reason, has something against Billy. Billy never did anything to Claggart to cause the hatred towards him. He was just an “innocent victim” of Claggart’s hatred. (THAAL, pg. 2536) “Billy’s innocence is as much that of Adam…”, It is already known that Claggart does not like Billy Budd, but he had no reason to lie about him being a man of mutiny and destroying him. Budd becomes an innocent victim of Claggart’s lies and eventually wrongfully punished for it. The rules of society do not always favor a perfect and sinless character. Sometimes laws can be unjust. Melville makes Billy Budd a character whose only problem is being a victim of evil and living in a microcosm where decisions are made to be fair with nobody who can judge what is truly fair. Billy’s appearance only gives him attention but unfortunately he also receives Claggart’s attention. His goodness makes him unaware of evil and dying an innocent victim of evil.

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