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Research Papers that Summarize Billy Budd

Research papers can be written to be summaries of novels or great works of literature. One such example is Herman Melville's literary classic Billy Budd. The literature writers at Paper Masters will provide a summary of Billy Budd or any other American classic you need summarized for your lit course work.

Billy Budd, Sailor is the final novel of famed American writer Herman Melville. Melville’s literary career had declined sharply after the publication of Moby Dick.

Some interesting facts about Billy Budd are as follows:

  • although Melvin began Billy Budd in 1888, the novel was unfinished at his death in 1891
  • Billy Budd was not published until 1924
  • It was after 1924 that Billy Budd became recognized as a literary classicBilly Budd Summary.

The story of Billy Budd follows the title character, a sailor impressed into service on the HMS Bellipotent in 1797. Billy Budd, an orphan, is well liked by the crew of the Bellipotent, including the captain, Edward “Starry” Vere. However, the ship’s master-at-arms, John Claggart, takes an immediate dislike to Billy, who falsely charges the young man with attempted mutiny. Billy is hauled in front of the captain by Mr. Claggart. Billy Budd is astonished by the false accusations, but his extreme stutter makes him unable to provide for his own defense. As his frustration grows, Billy strikes out at Claggart, killing the man.

Captain Vere must therefore convene a drumhead court-martial for Billy Budd. The entire crew is in sympathy with Billy, but martial law demands that the killing, justified or not, is a capital crime. Billy Budd is thus sentenced to death by hanging. As Billy is led to the yardarm, his last words are “God bless Captain Vere!” The story ends with an ambiguous turn: Captain Vere’s last words are “Billy Budd,” but a contemporary news article describes Billy as a mutineer, hung for stabbing Claggart.

Throughout the story, comparisons are made between Billy Budd and Adam. Billy Budd is “the Handsome Sailor” who is represented as the perfect union of “strength and beauty”. His naivety concerning the evils of the world, along with his righteous nature, naturally lend to a comparison with Adam. At particular parts of the story, Melville begins to separate Billy’s story from the story of Adam. Unlike Adam, Billy is able to resist the temptation of mutiny presented to him by Claggart. He is even able to physically defeat Claggart, the representation of evil within the story. Even so, by the conclusion of the story, Billy “departs from his archetype in his incapacity for entering into the fallen world” and falls victim to the evil that abounds in it. The comparison between Claggart and Satan in the Garden of Eden is another strong metaphor within the story. Claggart is depicted as having an “evil nature, not engendered by vicious training or corrupting books or licentious living, but born with him and innate”. Like Satan, Claggart is the natural representation of evil within Billy’s world. Claggart is envious of Billy and this envy leads to his hatred and eventual temptation of Billy. Unsuccessful in this endeavor, it is Billy’s defeat of Claggart that ironically brings about his about his own fall.

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