Bill Budd Essay, Research Paper
Herman Melville s Billy Budd is a story about true goodness. It entails the conflict of good and evil, but more than that it portrays innocence in its most purest form.
Innocence is an exploitable commodity. While this is universally recognized, there are many different ways people confront it. Some people choose to embrace and protect it. While others choose to abuse it and corrupt it. Those who choose the latter are evil¾plain and simple. By making this choice they are reflecting not upon the innocent, but upon themselves. This reflection is humanity in its darkest configuration.
Billy Budd and John Claggart are opposing forces. Billy Budd who is described as strength and beauty. Tales of his prowess recited. Ashore he the champion, afloat the spokesman; on every suitable occasion always foremost. John Claggart, a man in whom was the mania of an evil nature, not engendered by vicious training or corrupting books or licentious living but born with him and innate, in short a depravity according to nature. These two people who are clearly on opposite sides of the spectrum contrast one another in a plethora of ways. Where Billy is sweet, John is bitter. Where Billy is na ve, John is knowledgeable. Where Billy is content, John is jealous. Lastly, where Billy is good, John is bad.
The ugliness that results in the death of both men portrays the triumph of sinister forces over the meek. John Claggart, who is a powerful and feared man aboard Bellipotent, lashes out at Billy who is for the most part defenseless. This is an injustice of biblical proportions.
What could have prevented this from happening? Perhaps, if Billy picked up on John s malicious intent the entire tragedy could have been avoided. But, on the other hand Billy was good and sought goodness. That is why he failed to see the evilness in Claggart.
To discourage Billy s goodness is to compromise the very thing that makes us human in the first place¾Humans seek goodness instinctively. Thus, it is society s innate responsibility to protect the good (na ve) from those who are in a position to hurt them (people with knowledge.)
The significance of Billy s death is that of sacrifice and honor. Billy s death was, in a word¾majestic. At the same moment it chanced that the vapory fleece hanging low in the East was shot through with a soft glory as of the fleece of the Lamb of God seen in mystical vision, and simultaneously therewith, watched by the wedged mass
of upturned faces, Billy ascended, and, ascending, took the full rose of the dawn
Billy s death serves the purpose of reminding us all that selfishlessness is the ultimate virtue. Perhaps, with the memory of Billy Budd, we can rise above the evil in the world and make an impact on the lives of those around us.