Billy Budd, Sailor: Duty Versus Choice

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  • Topic: Royal Navy, Encyclopædia Britannica, Spithead and Nore mutinies
  • Pages : 2 (676 words )
  • Download(s) : 78
  • Published : February 24, 2013
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Duty Versus Choice in Billy Budd, Sailor
The novel Billy Budd, Sailor is the story about the encounter of Billy Budd, a beautiful sailor who is popular on the warship Bellipotent, and finally died, because he killed the master-at-arms, Claggart, inadvertently. Actually Captain Vere, the captain of Bellipotent, likes Billy Budd, also, he knows that Billy is innocent. But according to his duty on the ship as a captain, he decides to push Billy to death. In the late 1700s, in Great Britain, because of the two mutinies that happened, the power of a captain on a ship became strong and influenceable. The Britannica recorded that, sometimes the captain could call for a person’s death penalty without opening a court or even a temporary court(“Mutiny”). The nation already suffered two mutinies, which made their nation in disorder and chaos. Also, for each of the two times, the government resolved with “...pay raise, and improved living conditions”(Melville 132) and the leaders were even “...hanged from the yardarm...whipped or imprisoned” (Melville 132). They did not want these to happen again, so they strongly opposed the happening of it again. For Captain Vere, even though he does not have a strong influence that could let Billy directly be hanged without worrying about the debate on the court, he needs to try his best to avoid the happening of another mutiny. He believes, if he does not resolve this case ruthlessly, it will become a blasting fuse of the mutiny in the future. He is really afraid of the mutiny, because if the mutiny finally happens, the first people that will be killed by the traitors. In addition, Captain vere “had assumed a singularly tragical character that for a time jeopardized the life of its commander” (Melville 73) during the Nore Mutiny, that makes him strongly afraid of the mutiny. This is the main reason that makes him decide to take Billy to death. In fact, Captain Vere likes Billy Budd. While Claggart is telling him that Billy...
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