Good vs. Evil in "Billy Budd"

Essay by havokmaster2000High School, 12th gradeA+, December 2005

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Good and evil exist in all things whether it's in the Power Rangers show we watched as a child or in Herman Melville's novel "Billy Budd". Billy Budd and John Claggart are Melville's portrayal of the opposing forces of good and evil that run throughout all aspects of human experience. Billy is viewed as good and innocent and having no real character flaws except for a stutter and Claggart is an evil man who wants to watch the downfall and death of Billy Budd. G.B. Caird's essay entitled, "The Truth of the Gospel", can be related to "Billy Budd". Good and evil are two natural forces are constantly at war with each other.

From the beginning, Billy Budd impressed his companions with the strength of his love for life. When he was taken from the ship, The Rights of Man, Billy's captain became disturbed at the thought of losing such a man, saying, "Beg pardon, but you don't understand, Lieutenant...It

was black times, I tell you aboard the Rights here...But Billy came, and it was like a Catholic priest striking peace in an Irish shindy...a virtue went out of him, sugaring the sour ones" (5). From the start, we are made aware of Billy's goodness, his ability to bring peace to the roughest of men. He is compared to a priest, and is portrayed as exuding a charm which seems contagious. The crew saw him as the "sweet and pleasant fellow" and a "peacemaker" (5).

On his new ship, Billy faces John Claggart, the master-at-arms. Claggart had the job of "preserving order on the populous lower gun decks" (20). Claggart tends to take his job too obsessively, beating young sailors on any excuse even when they haven't done anything wrong. Melville immediately depicts a horrific...