Billy Budd: Theme Analysis
Good versus Evil
The fact that Billy has to die suggests how hard it is for innocence to survive in the human world, and especially in a military situation. It is as well to remember that the incident on the Indomitable takes place during a war, and, as the novel makes plain, in the wake of two recent mutinies in the British fleet. Captain Vere upholds the strict letter of the law because the security of the nation is at stake, since the Navy is Britain's principle defense against its enemies. The point seems to be that in some circumstances, the individual, no matter how innocent, must be sacrificed for the welfare of the whole society. The position Captain Vere is placed in is not a comfortable one, and at a personal level, he sympathizes with Billy. But he places his duty above such personal feelings.
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