Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Morality and Ethics

Billy Budd is nothing if not a book rich in moral and ethical questions. One could frame an entire course on the philosophy of ethics around Captain Vere's dilemma. The main problem is an apparent...

Duty

Since Billy Budd is set in the wake of the Nore Mutiny, a sense of military duty is not just a formality; it is a safeguard against massive uprisings in the British fleet. Duty often allows one to...

Sin

It is unclear whether or not anyone sins in Billy Budd. Sin is an unambiguous word. It means that an action is fundamentally wrong. In the novel, however, everyone's actions seem to be in part moti...

Truth

Billy Budd, sparse at is, is a story packed full of double meaning and nuance. The narrator constantly claims that he is giving a completely accurate portrayal of events. He also tells us that Bill...

Wisdom and Knowledge

Many of the characters in Billy Budd make decisions that have awful consequences, despite the fact that they are extremely intelligent and well informed. Wisdom is not often explicitly discussed in...

Philosophical Viewpoints

The narrator of Billy Budd makes no secret of the fact that he is well versed in philosophy. He makes allusions to both political and moral philosophies throughout the book, and he himself seems to...

Foreignness and 'Other'

At the heart of Billy Budd are two characters that are twinned mysteries. To the narrator, one seems to be fundamentally good, the other to be fundamentally evil. Yet they are strange to him. He ca...

Loyalty

All characters in Billy Budd, including the villain Claggart, try to justify their behavior in terms of loyalty to the English King. In 1797, shortly after the Nore Mutiny, loyalty is not just some...

Man and the Natural World

The idea of naturalism pervades Billy Budd. In the novel, it is closely linked with the narrator's inability to explain the behavior of two of his main characters: John Claggart and Billy Budd. The...

Admiration

As the narrator depicts it, Billy Budd is not just a man worthy of respect or even a hero; he is a man to be bowed down and worshipped, a man that you can't help but love. In the narrator's case, t...
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