LAW AND LIT FINAL NOTES - Billy Budd Sailor Herman Melville...

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Billy Budd, Sailor Herman Melville setting (time) · Summer of 1797, four years into the Napoleonic Wars between England and France and several months after the Great Mutiny at Nore setting (place) · On an English warship, the Bellipotent, somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea protagonist · Billy Budd major conflict · On one level, the conflict of the book is between the natural innocence and goodness of Billy and the subtlety and deceptiveness of evil, represented by Claggart. The second major conflict of the book is the dilemma about whether Vere should absolve Billy for killing Claggart, since Billy is fundamentally innocent, or whether he should execute him to avoid appearing lenient toward mutiny. rising action · Billy’s persecution for minor infractions, his spilling the soup in front of Claggart, and his encounter with the afterguardsman, who may have been seeking to entrap him, all bring Billy and Claggart toward open conflict. climax · Billy strikes Claggart dead after being falsely accused of mutiny. falling action · Vere forms a special drumhead court to try Billy, and pressures the court to convict and condemn him; Billy is executed in front of the entire crew; Billy’s legend gradually begins to spread among the sailors. themes · The individual versus society; conscience versus law; the vulnerability of innocence motifs · Christian allegory; suggestive names; mutiny symbols · The ships, the purser, the surgeon foreshadowing · The Dansker’s warning that Claggart hates Billy; the intimations of mutiny made to Billy in the darkness T he setting is the last decade of the eighteenth century. The British naval warship H.M.S. Bellipotent impresses, or involuntarily recruits, the young sailor Billy Budd, extracting him from duty aboard the Rights-of-Man, a merchant ship. Billy’s commanding officer, Captain Graveling, though reluctant to let one of his best men go, has little choice in the face of the superior ship’s demands. Billy packs up his gear without so much as a protest and follows the boarding officer of the Bellipotent, Lieutenant Ratcliffe, across the gangway to his new assignment. After a cheery good-bye to his old mates, Billy settles in quickly among the company of the Bellipotent. He proves most industrious and eager in his role as foretopman and soon earns the affection of his more experienced fellow sailors. Billy is deeply affected by the sight of a violent lashing given to one of the ship’s crew. Hoping to avoid a similar punishment, Billy attempts to fulfill his duties in model fashion, but finds himself under constant scrutiny due to various minor infractions. Puzzled by this persecution, Billy seeks out the advice of the Dansker, an aged, experienced sailor. After explaining the situation to him, the Dansker concludes that Claggart, the master-at-arms, holds a grudge against Billy. Refusing to accept this theory, Billy dismisses the Dansker’s opinion but continues to wonder pensively about his situation. Shortly thereafter, at a lunchtime meal, Billy accidentally spills his soup pan in the ship’s dining room
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LAW AND LIT FINAL NOTES - Billy Budd Sailor Herman Melville...

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