Billy Budd Literary Analysis

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The book "Billy Budd," by Herman Mellville repeatedly stresses the importance of innocence. Billy's innocence is a central part of his beauty and is what dooms him in the end. His innocence is what makes him pure, but also what makes him blind. Billy is unable to see Claggart's trickery and hatred towards him and that is his downfall. Mellville illustrates the duality of Billy Budd's innocence through imagery, symbolism, and the characterization of Billy.

Innocence is stressed repeatedly throughout the book, and Mellville creates many images of what innocence really is. It is glorious. It is "free-and-easy," because it is so simple and does not need any intelligence. This is shown when Mellville says, "to be nothing more than innocent! Yet in an aesthetic way he say the charm of it, the courageous free-and-easy temper with it, and fain would have shared it, but he despaired of it." Mellville wants the reader to believe that being innocent is a benefit. He makes it seem fun and something that is enjoyable, showing in the "innocent frolics of the goodnatured Foretopman."

Mellville's characterization of Billy is based around the idea of his innocence. "A child's utter innocents is but its blank ignorance, and the innocence more or less wanes as intelligence waxes." Mellville is saying that a child is completely innocent when the child's mind and thoughts are in their simplest form, and have not been tampered with by experience and knowledge. So when the child has more experience, they are less innocent than they were without the experience and knowledge, because now, with experience and knowledge, that child can make judgments based on the outside knowledge they have, not just with the information they are given. "But in Billy Budd intelligence, such as it was, had advanced, while yet his simplemindedness remained for the most part unaffected." The author chose to let Billy attain knowledge, but keep his innocence. When Mellville says, "intelligence, such as it...
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