by Herman Melville
Character Role Analysis
At the center of our story is a moral dilemma. What happens when the law seems to dictate the very opposite of what seems right in a given situation? The narrator has depicted both our protagonist and antagonist as creatures who just act, men who are largely unreflective. The narrator also repeatedly emphasizes how simple and dutiful sailors are. The result is that this moral dilemma lands right on the shoulders of Captain Vere. He's the one who is trying to decide whether or not to listen to Claggart, and then he has to decide whether or not to condemn Billy. It is clear that Billy respects him, particularly given that his last words are "God Bless Captain Vere!" The narrator suggests that a sort of father-son bond was forming between them before everything fell apart on the Bellipotent. At the close of the story, we see that even as Vere condemns Billy to death, Billy looks up to him and respects his ability to make decisions.