Billy Budd

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade August 2001

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Billy Budd - Billy and Claggart The film based upon Melville's novel "Billy Budd" deals with the theme of good verses evil; here good is represented by Billy Budd, a kind hearted young man who is friendly and courteous, while evil is represented by Claggart, a twisted old man who takes pleasure in the punishment of others. Billy Budd and other sailors serve on the warship H.M.S. Bellipotent, and must follow Claggart's commands no matter how cruel. Out of all the sailors on the ship, Billy is the only one who isn't afraid of Claggart. Billy holds the belief that no one is evil, and that there are reasons for one's actions. We see Claggart's evil side when he makes a sick sailor climb the mast, only to fall to his death; we also see his contemptuous grin as he watches his men being whipped. Claggart is easy to despise, while Billy, on the other hand, quickly achieves the admiration of others, as he is like an angel whose kindness inspires those around him.

Due to Billy's strong work ethic (following rules, working hard), he is promoted to a higher rank where he and Claggart finally talk to man to man. Claggart is amazed at how nice Billy is to him, but as Billy grows closer, he becomes scared and pushes him away. Claggart needs people to be afraid as it gives him strength - this therefore makes Billy his natural enemy.

Claggart later wishes to have Billy punished, so he lies to the captain of the ship, saying that Billy Budd is the leader of a rebellion. Claggart's blatant lies angers Billy to the point where he can't think of a response and thus hits Claggart on the head. This is the turning point for...