Major Works Data Sheet Billy Budd 1. Title: Billy Budd 2. Author: Herman Melville 3. Date of Publication: 1924 (posthumously) 4. Historical Information: As divulged to the reader, Billy Budd takes place in 1797 in the midst of the French Revolution. Throughout the mid- 1790s, Britain enacted new quota requirements to enlist 45,000 men in the Royal Navy, which was filled by means of volunteers, the Quota Acts, and most popularly, the impressing of men from merchant ships, as Melville demonstrates. Actual events that occurred in April and May of 1797 were the Spithead and Nore Mutinies, these incidents were offset by the despicable onboard conditions, the severe punishments and increasingly sparse pay while at sea. The pitying British government met the demands of the sailors at the Spithead mutiny; however, the mutinous sailors at the Nore were not so easily won over. Richard Parker was the ringleader behind the plan to not succumb to the government immediately and hold out longer. With this occurrence fresh in mind, it was of Captain Vere’s best intention to prevent mutiny aboard the Bellipotent. . Biographical Information About the Author: Born to Allan and Maria Gansevoort Melvill, on August 1, 1819, Herman Melville was the third of eight children who grew up in New York. By the mid- 1830s, Melville had already started writing, but unfortunately, his family had financial problems, and he had to take a job as a cabin boy on a merchant ship that set sail in June 1839. In January of 1841, he sailed again on a whaler named Acushnet and embarked on an excursion to the South Seas; and later the same year he enrolled on an Australian whaler, Lucy Ann, which anchored Tahiti. These two locations are where he found his inspiration for his first novel, Typee (1846), and his second novel Omoo (1847), which both describe Melville’s somewhat romanticized version of his experiences on these islands. Over the next decade, Melville wrote seven more novels including his now well known Moby Dick or The Whale (1851). In 1866, with the Civil War still on his mind, Melville published his first verse entitled Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866) and during the last twenty years of his life after losing both of his son’s, he wrote many other stories, sketches, journals, and verses. Melville returned to prose for his final novel, Billy Budd, which was among his manuscripts when he died. 6. Short Plot Summary: Billy Budd, a young twenty one year old sailor, is forced off his merchant ship Rights-of-Man and is impressed upon the warship, The H. M. S. Bellipotent, a warship. The Handsome Sailor soon meets the devious Master-at-Arms, John Claggart, whom is almost certain that he is up to no good. One day, Billy accidentally spills his soup on Claggart in the mess hall at lunch; however, Claggart assures Billy that everything is fine but really, he is only trying to make a fool out of the Handsome Sailor. After being suspected of plotting a mutiny on the ship, Billy is questioned by the honorable Captain Vere with Claggart present. Claggart starts accusing him, and Billy overcome by his outrage, punches Claggart to the floor unintentionally causing his death. Captain Vere and his highest commanders put the young sailor on trial where he is sentenced to death by hanging. Is Billy innocent or guilty, should he have been put to death? 7. Discuss the author’s diction. How does it enhance the writing? : Throughout Billy Budd, Melville is able to accurately portray the “human imperfections” in the characters. For Billy, his imperfection is his speech impediment (12-13). Melville so precisely defines the real human nature in each character he goes into detail when describing the person. The author’s diction is so clear and on-the-ball that the reader is able to identify himself with a fictional character. For example, Melville captures a side of Captain Vere that is only revealed to the reader about his daydreaming and the moment of irascibility when someone interrupts him (23), an everyday event that many people find themselves doing. The ability for Melville to explain this says so much about his capabilities as a writer. In Chapter 19, right as Claggart is accusing Budd, the author carefully paints an intricate picture so the reader has a clear understanding of the scene: With the measured step and calm collected air of an asylum-physician approaching in the public hall some patient beginning to show indications of a coming paroxysm, Claggart deliberately advanced within short range of Billy, and mesmerically looking him in the eye, briefly recapitulated the accusation. Not at first did Billy take it in. When he did, the rose-tan of his cheek looked struck as by white leprosy. He stood like one impaled and gagged. Meanwhile the accuser's eyes removing not as yet from the blue dilated ones, underwent a phenomenal change, their wonted rich violet color blurring into a muddy purple. Those lights of human intelligence losing human expression, gelidly protruding like the alien eyes of certain uncatalogued creatures of the deep. The first mesmeric glance was one of serpent fascination; the last was as the hungry lurch of the torpedo-fish (70-71). Through the author’s word choice, the intense gravity of the scene is conveyed and his message is understood. 8. What literary devices did the author employ? What purposed was achieved with these devices? : There are copious examples of literary devices in the novella, but only three will be discussed. The first and foremost common device was that of jargon in the text (18) and also in this passage: Such sanctioned irregularities, which for obvious reasons the Government would hardly think to parade at the time, and which consequently, and as affecting the least influential class of mankind, have all but dropped into oblivion, lend color to something for the truth whereof I do not vouch, and hence have some scruple in stating; something I remember having seen in print, though the book I can not recall; but the same thing was personally communicated to me now more than forty years ago by an old pensioner in a cocked hat with whom I had a most interesting talk on the terrace at Greenwich, a Baltimore Negro, a Trafalgar man (30). Although Melville is very adept in describing certain people, places, or events, it is apparent that he could have used a few periods instead of prattling and rambling on. The author may have thought that using lengthy sentences like this enhance the text; however, it simply makes it harder to read and comprehend his point. Next, Melville uses the literary device of allusion widely all through the book. He alludes to people such as: Thomas Paine (7), Adam and the Garden of Eden (11,66), the Serpent (meaning Satan)(11, 71), Abraham and Isaac (91), Tecumseh (28), Stephen Decatur (17) and countless more. Melville also alludes to: Bunker Hill (31), Calvinism (42), the Monitor (18), Phrenology (29), the Apocalypse (30), and the Cross (113). All of these people, things, and topics really did exist in the world, making the novella possibly more believable since all of them were not conjured up in the book. The last example is irony and how this device was used numerous times such the Rights-of-Man (7) which is the merchant ship, and how the Handsome Sailor had no rights as a man but to obey and be forced onto the Bellopotent(4-8). 9. Memorable Quotes: 1) “Struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angel must hang! ” This is said by Captain Vere (73) soon after Billy accidentally kills Claggart. This is arguably one of the most controversial quotes out of the entire book. Billy is portrayed as innocent and angelic, yet by committing murder, this raises question about the Handsome Sailor’s character. Melville has many allegories about Christ and the Bible; moreover, this line could mean that Billy never truly did resemble Christ but the Devil himself. Lucifer was God’s angel that fell from grace, so Billy could be Vere’s “angel” that fell from grace by murdering Master-at-Arms, Claggart. ) “God bless Captain Vere! ” This quote is said by Bill Budd. After all of the events that lead up to this point in the story, Captain Vere realizes that Billy Budd had no true intention of killing Claggart, and yet, he calls for a trial anyway. Vere knows that he must do what is right and abide by the law and not his conscience. But, through it all, Billy accepts his fate because he knew what he had to do and seemed to be at peace with the fact when he was hanged; therefore, his body does not convulse or move after he is killed. 3) “Well, blessed are the peacemakers, especially the fighting peacemakers. Said by Lieutenant Ratcliffe, after he takes a drink, this has more Biblical meaning that anything. This alludes to The Beatitudes, which are in the New Testament, and is taken from Matthew (5:9): “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. ” The application to Billy both suggests an alignment of him and “the children of God” as well as pointing out the irony of the phrase “fighting peacemaker. ” 4) “Not that he preached to them or said or did anything in particular, but a virtue went out of him, sugaring the sour ones. Captain Graveling was describing how having Billy aboard the Rights-of-Man quelled the once quarrelling crew. This does not have to only be applied to the crew of the merchant ship, but on Billy’s character in general. Billy is aware of his kind-heartedness, yet he does not fully understand how he comes off to others, but he is always positive. Right before Budd walked into Vere’s cabin, he was thinking how the captain looks kindly upon him and was wondering if Vere was going to make him a coxswain. The Handsome Sailor was so naive to predicting what was about to happen once in the captain’s cabin. ) “But are sailors, frequenters of fiddlers’ greens, without vices? No; but less often than with landsmen do their vices, so called, partake of crookedness of heart, seeming less to proceed from viciousness than exuberance of vitality after long constraint: frank manifestation in accordance with natural law. ” Sailors are different from the people that spend most of their lives on land because they do not commit vice out of “crookedness of heart” or “viciousness”, basically meaning evil. This in a way explains the mind set of Billy Budd, which is innocent. 10. The most significant characters in the work (chronological): Captain Graveling: The captain of the Rights-of-Man, and he was the first character to give the reader insight to Billy’s nobility and innocence. Graveling explains to Ratcliffe of how Billy was the best sailor of the crew and the peacemaker on the ship. It is apparent to the reader that Graveling is upset to see Budd go, and the reader can infer the gratitude he feels toward Billy. The external conflict Graveling faces is how he is losing the best man aboard his ship, yet he knows he must let Budd go. This first captain almost appears to be a father figure or Joseph as a Biblical reference, and may be looked at as more than just a minor character, because he sets the overall opinion of Billy Budd. Billy Budd: The Handsome Sailor and the protagonist of the story. He had many virtues and good traits. The entire story revolves around this character. Melville makes sure the reader seems him as nothing more than an innocent, virtuous, good and moral man. He is honest and true, and may be looked at as Jesus Christ. The external conflict is the changing of ships, his speech impediment, dealings of hatred from Claggart, and being accused of plotting for a mutiny and murdering Claggart. The internal conflict he experiences would be how he has to mentally prepare for the fact that he will be killed and die for his murdering of the Master-at-Arms. This is the climax to the story. Captain Edward Fairfax Vere: This man is the captain aboard the ship Billy was impressed upon, the H. M. S. Bellipotent. Vere determines Billy’s fate of whether he lives or dies. This character is significant in that he is a judge of Billy’s fate. The reader perceives the character by being very intelligent and philosophical. He reads and has opinions and keeps these opinions to himself locked away in his mind. The internal conflict is he ultimately chooses the law above everything else, which is his belief so ;therefore, Billy is hanged. John Claggart: The Master-at-Arms is the antagonist. Claggart causes the rising action and in turn he creates the climax of the story. He is perceived to be evil and to hate Billy Budd. He accuses Billy of mutiny and inadvertently loses his own life because of it. His external conflict is a physical confrontation with Billy, leading to a punch in the head and leading to his death. The Dansker: He is Billy‘s friend and a veteran who served with Admiral Nelson. He gives Billy advice like an advocator or the Holy Spirit. He hesitates to help Budd, but is always around to help him.. Squeak: He Claggart’s friend and most cunning corporal. Squeak supports and fuels Claggart’s contempt for Billy, and tries by various maneuvers to make Billy’s life miserable. 11. Two Significant Settings: The two settings of the story are were on the merchant ship, Rights-of-Man and the warship, the H. M. S. Bellipotent. In 1797. 12. Vocabulary: 1) rollick- display boisterous high spirits: to have fun, especially in a loud, rowdy way The children rollicked outside in all day by playing Hopscotch, Red Rover, and Hide and Go Seek. 2) muster- to summon up something such as strength or courage that will help in doing something As Drill Sergeant Michaels blew his whistle, the men sprang up to muster into order. 3) demur- to delay or try to avoid doing something because of personal reservations or objections I will demur to cleaning my room so I can go to the beach today. 4) halloo- used to try to attract somebody's attention When you pick me up at the airport, please don’t halloo as I walk out of the terminal. 5) prostrate- to lie prone or stretched out with the face downward or bow very low Alejandro prostrated himself before the emperor. 6) veritable- absolute: used to emphasize a figurative concept The business is a veritable gold mine. 7) alacrity- eager readiness: promptness or eager and speedy readiness The alacrity of the cheerleaders made Harvey push through to score a touchdown. ) tumbler- drinking glass: a drinking glass with a thick flat bottom and no stem or handle Caitlin, asking her grandfather where her tumbler filled with root beer had gone, he replied “Ooops! I think I have drunken it already! ” 9) corpulent (corpulence)- somewhat overweight The girl had looks, charisma, and a corpulent figure; however, that did not stop her from becoming America’s Next Top Model. 10) coxswain- somebody in charge of rowing a boat While going white river rafting last fall, my mother made sure we had an adept coxswain to maneuver us through the worst parts. 1) evince- show clearly: to show a feeling or a quality clearly She evinced her disapproval of the production by leaving the auditorium. 12) portmanteau- large suitcase: an old type of large leather suitcase, especially one that opened out into two compartments When Alfred was a young child, he could fit into grand mother’s red portmanteau! 13) avidity- eagerness or greed: great eagerness or enthusiasm for something Selma showed great avidity when hearing about her favorite actor, James Franco. 14) factitious- insincere: contrived and insincere rather than genuine The acclaimed author showed a quite factitious reaction to a compliment by her own mother. 15) ample-more than enough: as much or as many as required, usually with some left over Make sure you buy an ample supply of food just in case we lose power over night. 13. Themes: One theme of Melville’s Billy Budd, is Billy’s naivete. This point is repeatedly stressed. The Handsome Sailor personifies innocence, while the evil Claggart personifies evil and depravity in our everyday lives. Billy’s innocence is what makes his character; however, this also breaks his character. For he can not see the wicked Claggart’s malice and treachery. Billy is also an example of Melville's fascination with ideas of man in a state of perfect nature. Literary Devices for English III AP 1. Allegory- the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence; an instance of such expression 2. Alliteration- the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables 3. Allusion- an implied or indirect reference especially in literature; the use of such references 4. Analogy- inference that if two or more things agree with one another in some respects they will probably agree in others 5. Antithesis- (1): the rhetorical contrast of ideas by means of parallel arrangements of words, clauses, or sentences (2): opposition, contrast 6. Apostrophe- the addressing of a usually absent person or a usually personified thing rhetorically 7. Epithet- (1): a characterizing word or phrase accompanying or occurring in place of the name of a person or thing (2): a disparaging or abusive word or phrase (3): the part of a taxonomic name identifying a subordinate unit within a genus 8. Euphemism- the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant; the expression so substituted 9. Hyperbole- extravagant exaggeration 10. Irony- (1): a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other's false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning —called also Socratic irony (2) the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning (3): a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony (4): an ironic expression or utterance 11. Metaphor- a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them; broadly, figurative language 12. Metonymy- a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated 13. Onomatopoeia- (1): the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss) (2): the use of words whose sound suggests the sense 14. Oxymoron- a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly: something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements 15. Parody- a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule 16. Personification- attribution of personal qualities; especially: representation of a thing or abstraction as a person or by the human form 17. Simile- a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as 18. Symbol- something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance; especially: a visible sign of something invisible 19. Synecdoche- a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole, the whole for a part, the species for the genus, the genus for the species, or the name of the material for the thing made 20. Understatement- (1): to represent as less than is the case (2): to state or present with restraint especially for effect
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