Patrick's Reviews > Billy Budd, Sailor

Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville
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's review
Jun 04, 2011

really liked it
Read 2 times. Last read June 4, 2011 to June 6, 2011.

p.9 Blessed are the peacemakers, especially the fighting peacemakers.
p.48-9 These men are madmen, and of the most dangerous sort, for their lunacy is not continuous, but occasional, evoked by some special object.
p.114 At the penultimate moment, his words, words wholly unobstructed in the utterance, were these: "God bless Captain Vere!"

Interesting to contrast the pace of the story with writing now. The novel halts and goes, starting and stopping with some much punctuation that the follow the tale is different for a modern reader. It is not at all the type of sentence construction in use now. Also, keep a dictionary close; Melville is verbose.

Billy Budd sets up the protagonist to be an Ooroonko sort of character, based upon the ideal of nobility. Billy Budd's innocence, combined with consistent Biblical references, places Billy near Adam before being tempted by the serpent. The innate goodness of Billy is in stark opposition to the inherent evil of Claggert, the master-at-arms. The clash of absolute good and natural evil creates any number thought provoking comparisons for the reader. An important comment upon the world is delivered through the story of Billy and Claggert. The novel delivers social criticism about the corrupt, amoral world characters are living within. The text also reveals the sort of social mindset prevalent at the time, which is instructive.

The narrator is the most dynamic character within the work. Melville plays with the narrator, at one point the author inserts himself as "an honest scholar" to comment upon the nature of good and evil. The narrator talks directly to the reader which is fun on occasion but too often used to justify what and why Billy has not taken an action. In addition, the narrator uses a dialogue with the reader to create a good amount of dramatic irony.


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