by Herman Melville
Billy Budd Foreignness and 'Other' Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
A somewhat remarkable instance recurs to me. In Liverpool, now half a century ago, I saw under the shadow of the great dingy street-wall of Prince's Dock (an obstruction long since removed) a common sailor so intensely black that he must needs have been a native African of the unadulterate blood of Ham – a symmetric figure much above the average height. (1.2)
This description occurs on the very first page of Billy Budd. It has no other role in the entire story. Why on earth is it there? Why does the narrator compare the sailors' admiration of Billy to another group of sailors' admiration for an African sailor? How is his depiction of the African sailor different than his depiction of Billy?
Yes, Billy Budd was a foundling, a presumable by-blow, and, evidently, no ignoble one. Noble descent was as evident in him as in a blood horse. (2.9)
How does Billy's apparent nobleness of birth set him apart from the other men? Do you believe that one can detect nobleness of birth even if a man is only an orphan? Why is Billy so often compared to animals, horses in particular?
Besides, in derogatory comments upon anyone against whom they have a grudge, or for any reason or no reason mislike, sailors are much like landsmen: they are apt to exaggerate or romance it. (8.4)
Why do people feel a need to exaggerate derogatory comments? What is the effect of such exaggerations in general? What aspects of the tragedy in Billy Budd can be traced to excessively derogative comments?