Study Guide

Billy Budd Chapter 15

By Herman Melville

Chapter 15

  • Billy's totally puzzled by what has happened. It's the first time anyone has tried to get him embroiled in any sort of underhanded business, and he honestly just doesn't know what to do about it.
  • He resolves to try to see the afterguard in the light of day, and is surprised to see that he's a friendly looking fellow, a bit chubby, and "something of a rattle-brain" (15.3).
  • The afterguard sees him coming and nods to him and smiles without breaking off conversation with his friends.
  • A few days later, they're passing and the afterguard greets him warmly. Billy is so shocked that he doesn't know how to respond.
  • Simple as he is, it never occurs to Billy that it might be his duty to report what has happened to his superiors. Vaguely, he thinks that such an action would make him a snitch.
  • He resolves to ask the old Dansker what he thinks, though he gives him an edited and anonymous version of the story.
  • The Dansker seems to understand much more of the situation than Billy does and says, "Why, Jemmy Legs is down on you" (15.7).
  • Billy wants him to explain more clearly, but the Dansker becomes stubborn and withdrawn (like most oracles when pressed) and doesn't say another word.