by Herman Melville
Billy Budd Loyalty Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
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)
The narrator, as he is elaborating on Claggart's evil nature, notes that he still inspired a level of begrudged devotion in men. Why is devotion and loyalty so often begrudged (e.g. why do people so often hate their bosses?)? Does true loyalty have room for ill feelings to the object of loyalty?
Now Billy, like sundry other essentially good-natured ones, had some of the weaknesses inseparable from essential good nature; and among these was a reluctance, almost an incapacity of plumply saying no to an abrupt proposition not obviously absurd on the face of it, nor obviously unfriendly, nor iniquitous. (14.4)
Could you call Billy's difficulty in saying no to the people around him a sign of loyalty? Put this quote in the context of other quotations that depict Billy's behavior as dog-like. Is loyalty a simple idea or a complex one? Is it harder to be loyal the more self-conscious you are? If so, does the difficulty mean that your loyalty is that much more valuable?
In sum, Captain Vere had from the beginning deemed Billy Budd to be what in the naval parlance of the time was called a "King's bargain": that is to say, for his Britannic Majesty's navy a capital investment at small outlay or none at all. (18.17)
In the military, loyalty is of high value. But what does it mean for the men to think of one another in terms of "investment"? Do such terms dehumanize people's views of each other? Is part of the reason that Vere can condemn Billy Budd because he thinks of him precisely in such terms?