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Billy Budd

Billy Budd


by Herman Melville

Billy Budd Duty Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #4

But a true military officer is in one particular like a true monk. Not with more of self-abnegation will the latter keep his vows of monastic obedience than the former his vows of allegiance to marital duty. (21.7)

Which vows are more difficult to keep, those of the military commander or those of the monk? Get ready for an intentionally badly worded question: What if the duty to question one's duty were part of one's duty? Is this true in the case of the monk? In the case of the mariner?

Quote #5

But though a conscientious disciplinarian, he was no lover of authority for authority's sake. (21.8)

This seems an accurate characterization of Captain Vere based on his actions. Or does it? Let's be harsh on the Captain for a moment. If he isn't a lover of authority for authority's sake, why does he still condemn Billy Budd?

Quote #6

But an innate repugnance to playing a part at all approaching that of an informer against one's own shipmates – the same erring sense of uninstructed honor which had stood in the way of his reporting the matter at the tie, though as a loyal man-of-war's man it was incumbent on him, and failure to do so, if charged against him and proven, would have subjected him to the heaviest of penalties; this, with the blind feeling now that nothing really was being hatched, prevailed in him. When the answer came it was a negative. (21.17)

Here, our narrator speculates as to why Billy fails to turn in the afterguard. Does it not seem that he is still serving some kind of duty? Could one characterize loyalty between sailors as some kind of duty? Wouldn't it seem odd to preach absolute loyalty to the men and then expect them to turn each other in at the drop of a hat?

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