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Billy Budd

Billy Budd


by Herman Melville

Lieutenant Ratcliffe

Character Analysis

Ratcliffe serves as the boarding officer for the Bellipotent. When examining the men from the Rights-of-Man, Ratcliffe can immediately see that Billy is the best of them. He picks only Billy for naval recruitment. Take a moment here to note that Billy is being recruited to the Bellipotent against his will, which is to say that he is being impressed.

A bit later, Ratcliffe has an encounter with Captain Graveling, who is very distressed to be losing Billy and tries to explain his worth to the lieutenant. Ratcliffe takes Graveling's words with a grain of salt. He kids Billy for trying to bring a chest aboard a man-of-war when all the men are permitted is a bag. When Billy jumps up on the prow of the ship to say good-bye to the Rights-of-Man, Ratcliffe barks at him to get down, but he can't help but smile at Billy's good nature.