We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.


Character Role Analysis

John Claggart

This one's pretty clear. Claggart is the bad guy. The narrator thinks that he is naturally depraved (corrupted; given to wrong actions) and suggests that he might be half-mad, that there is some elemental evil in him. For all that, it is still completely unclear why Claggart hates Billy so much. The narrator admits that he is leaving it a mystery because he just doesn't know. Part of the result is that Claggart is less than a human character. He gets painted as just bad but we have no idea why, no way to sympathize with him. This is not a shortcoming of the story. It's supposed to be a realistic aspect of it. Sometimes people just do things and we can't understand why. What is clear, though, is that Claggart despises Billy and falsely accuses him. Hence the antagonist.