AP English Literature and Composition
1981-Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville
2 December 2009
Billy Budd, Sailor and the Bible
Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailorrelies upon multiple allusions to the Bible. In fact, the novel itself is an extended allusion. There are multiple allusions made to the Bible throughout the story, all of which are clear, that help toexplain things that are happening in the novel. The novel, though; as an extended allusion is not quite so obvious. Melville allows the reader to determine the parallel between Billy Budd andChristianity. This allusion predominates in the story, and allows for different views on the novel.
Billy Budd was an American sailor who was impressed onto a British Battle Ship called the Bellipotent. TheBellipotents Captain was Starry Vere. The basic set-up of the allusion is that Billy Budd is supposed to be a Christ-like figure, Starry Vere is like Pontius Pilot, and Claggart, the shipsmaster-at-arms, is a Devil-like character. Billy’s impressment on the Bellipotent is the first of the Biblical allusions. Billy’s story is like Christ’s passion. His impressment is like the birth of Christ.Billy is inherently good and sometimes referred to as almost childlike. Throughout the story, people seek Billy out for his advice and see him as an important figure. Claggart eventually becomesthreatened by Billy and accuses him of mutiny. In anger Billy kills Claggart and then is tried in a court for the murder. Captain Vere is the judge. It is uncertain whether or not he wanted to condemn Billyor if he just didn’t want to seem lenient toward mutiny. Whatever the case, Billy was convicted and condemned to be hanged the next morning at sunrise. Billy’s execution most definitely resembles thecrucifixion of Christ. Two innocent people were executed for doing what was right. Melville also refers to the clothing Billy was to wear the next day, for his execution, a shroud. The next morning,...