by Herman Melville
Analysis: Steaminess Rating
Exactly how steamy is this story?
In short, there's not a lot of sex in this book. Some critics have suggested that the overwhelmingly male environment of Billy Budd and Melville's other novels suggests a return to an adolescent state, a sort of male fantasy world. Others have looked at the narrator's lengthy descriptions of Billy's handsomeness or Captain Vere's admiration of the younger sailor and have attempted to read homosexual themes into the story. For instance, the narrator suspects that the entire reason Claggart betrays Billy is because he is jealous of his looks. We think these readings are a bit of a stretch, but there is a question worth asking: for all these months at sea, what do the men do with all of their sexual energy?