Study Guide

Captain Graveling in Billy Budd

By Herman Melville

Captain Graveling

Graveling is the Captain aboard the Rights-of-Man, Billy's old ship. When Ratcliffe recruits Billy to the Bellipotent, and Billy makes no complaint, Graveling is upset. As he explains to Ratcliffe, Billy was his best man; he had a peacemaking effect on the other men aboard the ship. Graveling's feelings on the subject are so strong that when he finishes giving his complaint to Ratcliffe, he "had really some ado in checking a rising sob" (1.10). We don't see Graveling again after the first chapter, but his reaction to Billy's departure gives a sense of the effect Billy will have on board the Bellipotent. Once again, his Captain will become enthralled with him and be left to bemoan his loss, albeit in very different circumstances.

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