Billy Budd, Sailor: victim or hero?
Billy Budd, Sailor: Victim or Hero?
Melville tries to portray Nelson both as a hero and victim in his short piece ‘Billy Budd sailor’. The various chapters create an interesting dilemma on whether to view Nelson as a hero, a victim or both. This is subject to opinion depending on the point of view the reader decides to pursue.
The reason why Melville decided to create a perfect hero requires some elucidation. It is not by chance that chapters IV and V in this novel have focused on Nelson before captain Vere is later introduced and described. These two figures have been intentionally juxtaposed for the purposes of comparison. Vere is described as an inferior version of Nelson. He is seen in the novel as an ideal example of the governing principle CITATION Mel12 p 65 l 2057 (Melville 65).
Nelson does not only defeat the revolutionary ideas of the French, but also demonstrates his ability to lead. However, Vere is seen not to emulate Nelson’s ideals. Vere is clearly an illustration, in Melville’s contention, that anyone below that level of a hero becomes a victim of his own inconsistencies, ambiguities and of history CITATION Mel12 p 80 l 2057 (Melville 80). This story is set in the context of Napoleonic wars. This then becomes against the standard in which Vere’s conduct and character is to be judged. The historical situation portrayed in this book should be considered responsible for the reason Vere is obsessed with mutiny. It is what exposes his frailty as a human.
It would be dangerous to regard Vere and Nelson as symbols of prudence and recklessness. Considering that these behaviors are common to both, the main difference between these men narrows down to the appropriate attitude for the occasion.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Melville, Herman. Billy Budd. PSU-Hazleton: The Electronic Classics Series, 2012. Print.
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