Herman Melville's Billy Budd provides us with a summation and conclusive commentary on the ambiguities of moral righteousness and social necessity. The conflict that arises pitting natural justice in opposition to military justice essentially deliberates over whether the sacrifice of the individual is required for the continuum and conservation of social order. The deep allegorical theme of the passion of Christ that resides in Billy Budd illustrates Melville's adjudication on this issue. The sacrifice of Billy Budd for the upholding of social order is an illusionary backdrop to Christ offering up His life for the forgiveness of the sins of mankind. Melville implements this theological staple of belief into supporting the argument for the forfeiture of individual and moral justice to uphold order for the betterment of society.
The initial description of Billy Budd is strikingly Christ-like in nature. The opening paragraph of the novel alone is an almost prophetic preamble to the coming of the Messiah, or in this case, the "Handsome Sailor": "In certain instances they would flank, or like a bodyguard quite surround, some superior figure of their own class, moving along with them like Alderbaran among the lesser lights of his constellation" (Norton 1486). Billy is the embodiment of the idea of the Handsome Sailor and because so, his contemporaries flock to him in an idolatrous manner: "At each spontaneous tribute rendered by the wayfarers to this black pagod of a fellow-the tribute of a pause and a stare, and less frequently an exclamation-the motley retinue showed that they took that sort of pride in the evoker of it which the Assyrian priests doubtless showed for their grand sculpt...
... middle of paper ...
...ts of violence are militaristic in nature and don't exemplify the teachings of Christ. What these differences do create is a definite line between the worlds of Man and God. The differences between Billy and Jesus accentuate Melville's argument for the separation of secular and natural law. Christ died for the right of Man to be judged by God for the prospects of eternal life, while in contrast, Billy died for the perpetuation of social justice governed by Man. By drawing comparisons and contrasts between Billy and Christ and for what each man respectively died for, Melville makes us question our own ideas of natural justice in its relation to socially imposed justice.
Melville, Herman. Billy Budd, Sailor and Other Stories. Ed. Frederick Busch. New York: Penguin, 1986.
The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Dallas: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1979.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Comparing Christ to Billy of Billy Budd "I stand for the heart. To the dogs with the head!" wrote Herman Melville in his June 1851 letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne (Davis and Gilman 3). Yet, by the time he began writing Billy Budd, Sailor in 1888, Melville must have tempered this view, for Billy Budd depicts the inevitable destruction of a man who is all heart but who utterly lacks insight. Melville no doubt intends for his reader to connect this tale with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Billy Budd endures a persecution similar to Christ's; he is executed for like reasons, and he eventually ascends, taking "the full rose of the dawn" (BB 376).... [tags: Billy Budd Essays]
3199 words (9.1 pages)
- Religious Archetypes in Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and Bartleby the Scrivener Herman Melville's use of Biblical overtones gives extra dimensions to his works. Themes in his stories parallel those in the Bible to teach about good and evil. Melville emphasizes his characters' qualities by drawing allusions, and in doing so makes them appear larger than life. In the same way that the Bible teaches lessons about life, Herman Melville's stories teach lessons about the light and dark sides of human nature. He places his readers in situations that force them to identify with right or wrong choices. In Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and "Bartleby the Scrivener," Melville encourages his readers to... [tags: compare and contrast essay examples]
2242 words (6.4 pages)
- Billy Budd as Christ In this novel, Billy Budd, Melville acts as a "Creator", in that he gives Billy Budd certain superhuman qualities, which allows him to posses the traits of a servant of God. Billy Budd appears Christ-like, because of his peace-making abilities. Although, he is a peacemaker whom will fight for what he believes in and to keep peace. In the beginning of the novel, when Red Whiskers gives Billy Budd problems, he strikes him with a powerful blow and does not have any more problems with him or the crew again.... [tags: Billy Budd Essays]
952 words (2.7 pages)
- Billy Budd – Close, but no Christ Figure Billy Budd, the foretopman in Billy Budd, Sailor, seems similar to Jesus Christ because of his relative appearance of purity, simplicity, and innocence. He posses human virtues which cannot be explained but* by any other method except comparison to Christ. Yet, while Budd may seem like a "Christ figure" at first glance, he is a far cry from the Christ of the Holy Bible. Budd is human, and his short comings-his natural flaws and apathy towards others and his work-make it impossible for him to be a Christ figure-one who is blameless from birth until death, has the purpose of humanity's redemption continually in mind, and is totally self-sacr... [tags: Billy Budd Essays]
976 words (2.8 pages)
- Biblical Allegories in Billy Budd Herman Melville's Billy Budd is a novel with many biblical allegories ranging from subtle references to quite obvious similarities between characters and Biblical figures. One of the most prevalent and accepted similarities is that of "Billy as Adam" (Berthoff, Certain 33) around the time of the Fall, "The ground common to most discussion of Billy Budd is the assumption that the story is allegorical ... a reenactment of the Fall" (Berthoff, Certain 32).... [tags: Billy Budd Essays]
598 words (1.7 pages)
- Billy Budd - Thoreau and Melville The story of Billy Budd provides an excellent scenario in which to compare and contrast Thoreau and Melville. The topics of government-inspired injustice and man's own injustice to man can be explored through the story. Thoreau's position is one of lessened government and enhanced individualism, while Melville's is one of group unity and government's role to preserve order. The opinions of Melville and Thoreau outline the paradox of government: Government cannot exist without man, and man cannot exist without government.... [tags: Billy Budd Essays]
1083 words (3.1 pages)
- Captian Vere's reactions to Billy Budd in Billy Budd When Captain Vere says “Struck dead by an angel of God. Yet the angel must hang!” his attitude towards Billy Budd changes from one of paternal concern and personal respect to one in which he has set aside his personal thoughts and feelings for the sake of his nation. Each sentence represents this dichotomy by indicating his sentiment towards Billy. In the first, Billy is “an angel of God” who has “struck” Claggart dead, in a righteous manner.... [tags: Vere Billy Budd Essays]
414 words (1.2 pages)
- The Dilemma of Billy Budd Herman Mellville's Billy Budd is and extremely divisive novel when one considers the dissension it has generated. The criticism has essentially focused around the argument of acceptance vs. resistance. On the one hand we can read the story as accepting the hanging of Billy Budd as the necessary ends of justice. We can read Vere's condemnation as a necessary military action performed in the name of preserving order aboard the Indomitable. On the other hand, we can argue that Billy's execution as the greatest example of injustice.... [tags: Billy Budd Essays]
680 words (1.9 pages)
- Reader Reaction to Billy Budd I approached Melville's Billy Budd with a mixture of trepidation and determination. I read the Introduction first, because I thought its purpose was to introduce the author, and place the selected stories in context and I thought this would be an aid to understanding. I was correct, but too correct, because Joyce Carol Oates, without warning of the spoiler, casually references Billy's death. I think this knowledge influenced my reading, because I was aware of the ultimate outcome, I read with the purpose of understanding why that came to be.... [tags: Billy Budd Essays]
1210 words (3.5 pages)
- Billy Budd is a story filled with irony. This literary aspect can be seen through the plot and characters of the work. As defined in The American Heritage Dictionary, irony is the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. After a casual reading of the story' the many ironic aspects may have been igonred, but after analyzing the story it becomes obvious that they are of great importance. "...The fate of each character is the direct reverse of what one is led to expect from his nature" (Johnson, 185).... [tags: Billy Budd Essays]
609 words (1.7 pages)
- Essay on the Moon in the Works of William Shakespeare
- Free College Essays - William Shakespeare - Man or Myth?
- Character Development in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
- Society’s Treatment of Women Revealed in The Yellow Wallpaper
- Comparing A Turn with the Sun and A Separate Peace
- Free College Essays - Envy in A Separate Peace