The Tragedy of Justice in Billy Budd by Charles A. Reich Essay

The Tragedy of Justice in Billy Budd by Charles A. Reich Essay

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In all of Herman Melville’s short stories the captain is a tyrannical madman, but in Billy Budd, Sailor he changed things up and the captain, Captain Vere had compassion and a sensitive side to him, yet at the same time he had a military disciplinarian side to him. This is what made him such a controversial character. Captain Vere is all the talk, many critics have discussed the issue in their essay’s including Charles A. Reich’s “The Tragedy of Justice in Billy Budd” as well as Robert K. Martin’s “Is Vere a Hero?” Both essays argue whether Vere was the hero or the Villain. They also both question the fine line between law and humanity. Just because a law is made a law it doesn’t necessarily mean it is humane. When comparing the two essay’s the points made in Reich’s “The Tragedy of Justice in Billy Budd” are stronger than those made in Martin’s essay and therefore is more persuasive.
In Robert K. Martin’s essay “Is Vere a Hero?” he points out many faults in Vere’s actions involving the accusations against Billy. When Billy killed Claggart Vere immediately decided Billy’s fate. Martin points out that Vere fails to take into account Billy’s motives and intentions. Although motives and intentions do not change the fact that Billy killed Claggart it could’ve been the difference between life and death. Martin also argues that Vere made no attempt to prove whether a mutiny was really going to happen or not. When Billy was brought to trial Vere was the accuser, the witness, the judge, and even the defense council at times. He used his power to manipulate the court’s decision. Vere did not listen to Billy’s motives and intentions for killing Claggart but yet when Vere violated legal procedure his intentions mattered because he said th...


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...ather someone in a difficult circumstance, given a difficult choice. Robert Martin certainly had a few good points regarding the decisions Vere made however, Charles Reich’s reasons given in “The Tragedy of Justice in Billy Budd” were far more important, reasonable and realistic. Someone else in Captain Vere’s situation may have done the same thing, but no one can ever know unless there are in that situation. For Vere is no crazy madman that doesn’t belong being a captain he is an imperfect human who simply made a questionable allegation.



Works Cited

Ed. Dan McCall. 361-365. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. 2002. Print

Reich, Charles A. “The Tragedy of Justice in Billy Budd.” Twentieth Century of Billy Budd. Ed. Howard P. Vincent. 56-66. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall Inc. 1971. Print. Martin, Robert. “Is Vere a Hero?” Melville’s short novels

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