Billy Budd & Captain Vere

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In the story Billy Budd, By Herman Melville, readers are introduced to the conflict of good and evil between Billy Budd and Claggart. However, there is another conflict, which, in ways is more significant than the epic clash of good and evil. The conflict of Captain Vere's struggle between duty and conscience; Melville sets up this conflict by placing a man with the innocence of a child, in the hands of a captain worried about war. This moral dilemma brings forth the question of whether or not Captain Vere was justified in the hanging of Billy Budd. In a description of Captain Vere it can be anticipated that Vere, who values peace and common good, would be in conflict with his job, which requires him to be a militaristic authoritarian (Wikipedia 2). Captain Vere learns important lessons when innocent hands bring about destruction of life. Vere was moved by his beckoning duty as captain, to convince the drumhead court to convict Billy Budd. This is clearly stated in this quote: ‘But something in your aspect seems to urge that it is not solely the heart that moves in you, but also the conscience, the private conscience. But tell me whether or not, occupying the position we do, private conscience should not yield to that imperial one formulated in the code under which alone we officially proceed?' (Melville 2473-2474). However, the paternal emotions towards Billy Budd and his rational thinking did invoke indecision. Captain Vere realizes, when he has to act, he does not have the strength of conviction he had thought. Like Billy Budd, Vere has been able to hold on to his natural intelligence. Along with his intelligence, Vere has an innocent quality to him: he believes when a crisis between duty and conscience calls, he will be able to hold fast to duty as called for on the seas during war (Wikipedia 1). Captain Vere learns that to balance conscience and duty is a very hard task even for a man as conscious of his actions as he is. Captain Vere, despite having...
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