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Billy Budd

Billy Budd


by Herman Melville

Billy Budd Sin Quotes

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

Quote #1

But are sailors, frequenters of fiddlers' greens, without vices? No; but less often than with landsmen do their vices, so called, partake of crookedness of heart, seeming less to proceed from viciousness than exuberance of vitality after long constraint; frank manifestations in accordance with natural law. (2.12)

Is a sin that proceeds from "exuberance of vitality after long constraint" less serious than a sin of "viciousness"? How can you distinguish between the two? Consider some of the "sins" in Billy Budd. How would you categorize them?

Quote #2

And here be it submitted that apparently going to corroborate the doctrine of man's Fall, a doctrine now popularly ignored, it is observable that where certain virtues pristine and unadulterate peculiarly characterize anybody in the external uniform of civilization, they will upon scrutiny seem not to be derived from custom or convention, but rather to be out of keeping with these, as if indeed exceptionally transmitted from period prior to Cain's city and citified man. (2.13)

In this passage, the narrator seems to be arguing that virtue has nothing to do with civilization and politeness. Instead, he presents virtue as a more natural state, one that does not have to be cultivated. Is this viewpoint accurate? How does it affect how he portrays events later on in the story?

Quote #3

At least we can promise ourselves that pleasure which is wickedly said to be in sinning, for a literary sin the divergence will be. (4.1)

Here, our narrator apologizes for one of his many digressions. Is there such a thing as "literary sin"? What is the pleasure that one can take in sinning? In having sinned?

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