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Billy Budd

Billy Budd


by Herman Melville

Billy Budd Man and the Natural World Quotes

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

Quote #1

In fact he was one of those sea dogs in whom all the hardship and peril of naval life in the great prolonged wars of his time never impaired the natural instinct for sensuous enjoyment. (1.7)

Is hardship unnatural? Is the drive to "sensuous enjoyment" a natural instinct? Think of different species of animals. What types of journeys do they undergo that might be comparable to human voyages on the sea? In short, is the sailor's life going against nature or is it a natural life to lead?

Quote #2

You are aware that I am the adherent of no organized religion, much less of any philosophy built into a system. Well, for all that, I think that to try and get into X---, enter his labyrinth and get out again, without a clue derived from some source other than what is known as "knowledge of the world" – that were hardly possible, at least for me. (11.5)

Here, the narrator admits that he can't help but philosophize upon the events as they took place even though he doesn't understand them. It turns out, however, that his philosophy is mainly a fatalistic naturalistic one. If he really believes that so many men act without thinking and that their behavior can't be explained, then what is the point of philosophizing on it?

Quote #3

But for anything deeper, I am not certain whether to know the world and to know human nature be not two distinct branches of knowledge, which while they coexist in the same heart, yet either may exist with little or nothing of the other. (11.7)

Let's quickly play a game of Jeopardy where we take the above quotation and re-phrase it in terms of a question. As the narrative moves on, does it seem that knowing the world and knowing human nature constitute two distinct branches of knowledge? Is part of understanding human nature also understanding how humans are a part of the world and are inseparable from it?

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