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Was justice served on Billy Why //read BILLY BUDD by - Research Paper Example

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A young sailor Billy Budd, is falsely accused of sedition by the ship’s Master-at-Arms, John Claggart. Beside himself with resentment and indignation, he kills the slanderer with a strong blow during questioning…
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Download file to see previous pages The central plot and situation in “Billy Budd” owe much to the actual episode of American history, also belonging to the family history of Melville. In 1843, when Melville himself was a sailor, his cousin Lt. Guert Gansevoort, an officer of USS Somers, presided at the trial of three sailors accused of mutiny. All three were convicted and hanged in apparently insufficient evidence of their guilt (as believed by many authoritative contemporaries, including James Fenimore Cooper). Although the US naval authorities sanctioned the execution at Somers, Guert Gansevoort lost peace of mind and until the end of life could not forgive himself for participating in the murder of three sailors.
The tragedy at USS Somers is briefly mentioned in the eighteenth chapter of “Billy Budd.” Attention with which the writer explores the emotional drama of Vere goes back perhaps to the doubts and disputes arising in Melville’s family concerning the personality of Gansevoort.
Perhaps the idealization of “Starry” Vere is a tribute to Melville’s family tradition. In the historical setting, chosen by the writer, the decision to execute a sailor is extra motivated, supported by extraordinary circumstances: war and the recent mutiny in the British navy:
It was the summer of 1797. In the April of that year had occurred the commotion at Spithead followed in May by a second and yet more serious outbreak in the fleet at the Nore. The latter is known, and without exaggeration in the epithet, as the Great Mutiny. It was indeed a demonstration more menacing to England than the contemporary manifestoes and conquering and proselyting armies of the French Directory (Ch. 3).
The main idea of “Billy Budd” is closely connected to Melville’s small stories of the 50s. In “Billy Budd” it is the death of an innocent man, caught in the web of cruel, unjust and unchallenged ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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