Study Guide

Red Whiskers in Billy Budd

By Herman Melville

Red Whiskers

On board Billy's old ship, the Rights-of-Man, Red Whiskers was the one man that initially didn't like him. As Captain Graveling recounts the story to Lieutenant Ratcliffe, Red Whiskers gave Billy a dig under the ribs to embarrass him in front of the other men. Billy "let fly his arm" and "gave the burly fool a good drubbing" (1.10). Ironically, by responding so quickly, Billy gained Red Whiskers' respect, and "Red Whiskers now really loves Billy – loves him" (1.10). Though the Captain clearly tells the story of Red Whiskers in order to emphasize Billy's peacemaking abilities, Billy's beating of Red Whiskers foreshadows the violent accident with John Claggart.

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