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Billy Budd

Billy Budd


by Herman Melville

The Purser

Character Analysis

The Purser makes a brief appearance after Billy's execution as "a rather ruddy, rotund person more accurate as an accountant than profound as a philosopher" (26.1). He is eating next to the surgeon at mess, and he can't help but note that Billy's body did not twitch at all after he was hanged. He says, "What testimony to the force lodged in will power" (26.1). The surgeon explains to him that such a description is not scientifically accurate, but the purser persists, trying to find a way to articulate his faith in the strength of Billy Budd.