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Critical Essay On Billy Budd - School Essays

Critical Essay On Billy Budd


Charles Reich's assessment of the conflict in Billy Budd focuses on
the distinction between the laws of society and the laws of nature. Human
law says that men are "the sum total of their actions, and no more." Reich
uses this as a basis for his assertion that Billy is innocent in what he is,
not what he does. The point of the novel is therefore not to analyze the
good and evil in Billy or Claggart, but to put the reader in the position
of Captain Vere, who must interpret the laws of both man and nature.
Reich supports Vere's decision to hang Billy. In defense of this he
alludes to a famous English court case, in which three men were accused of
murder. However, the circumstances which led ...

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by lashing out at Claggart. I
agree with Reich's notion that Vere was correct in hanging Billy, and that
it is society, not Vere, who should be criticized for this judgement; for
Vere is forced to reject the urgings of his own heart and his values to
comply with the binding laws of man.
First, the moral issue aside, Captain Vere had no choice but to
convict Billy. As captain of a ship under pressure of war and the constant
threat of mutiny, Vere had to act swiftly. Also, as captain, Vere had the
responsibility of making sure the laws were strictly enforced, including
the Mutiny Act. Although Vere knew in his heart Billy was innocent, Billy's
actions had to be punished.
For Vere to have acquitted Billy would mean that he had placed the
divine law of nature above the laws he was bound to enforce as captain of a
British ship. Although this would have been morally right, who is to say
where to draw the line? This rhetorical question is what Melville wants his
readers to think ...

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Critical Essay On Billy Budd. (2006, February 6). Retrieved September 25, 2023, from http://www.essayworld.com/essays/Critical-Essay-On-Billy-Budd/40776
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PAPER DETAILS
Added: 2/6/2006 02:05:51 AM
Category: Book Reports
Type: Free Paper
Words: 521
Pages: 2

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