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Billy Budd

Billy Budd


by Herman Melville

Billy Budd Foreignness and 'Other' Quotes

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

Quote #4

The verdict of the sea quidnuncs has been cited only by way of showing what sort of moral impression the man made upon rude uncultivated natures whose conceptions of human wickedness were necessarily of the narrowest, limited to ideas of vulgar rascality – a thief among the swinging hammocks during a night watch, or the man-brokers and land-sharks of the seaports. (8.5)

Note that it is the narrator who is constantly contrasting men like Captain Vere and Billy with the average sailors. On what authority does he call the sailors' natures "rude" and "uncultivated"? How might our narrator classify his own nature? Does he ever show us why he thinks so little of average sailors?

Quote #5

Such reiteration, along with the manner of it, incomprehensible to a novice, disturbed Billy almost as much as the mystery for which he had sought explanation. (9.14)

Here, the narrator describes Billy's reaction to the Dansker telling him that Claggart doesn't like him. Why is the Dansker so hard for Billy to understand or to get a handle on? Are there really people for whom meanness is a totally foreign concept? What do you make of the narrator so clearly marking Billy as good and Claggart as evil?

Quote #6

For what can more partake of the mysterious than an antipathy spontaneous and profound such as is evoked in certain exceptional mortals by the mere aspect of some other mortal, however harmless he may be, if not called forth by this very harmlessness itself? (11.2)

This is an excellent description of Claggart's envy of Billy and his innocence. How might you characterize Claggart's envy? If he doesn't understand it, is it really a part of him? Are there certain beliefs and desires and (in this case) hatreds that we know are part of us but also feel foreign to us? How does this question apply to the way that Claggart's hatred of Billy is depicted?

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