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Billy Budd


by Herman Melville
There is much to be said about innocence. If one is with
innocence than one can do no wrong, but that may not always
hold true. Innocence is not always a good thing as it could
make one naive or blind to certain evils. This is
personified in the character, Billy Budd. Billy was
innocent from evil and therefore could not recognize the
evil in John Claggart or that he intended to destroy him. 
John Claggart wants to destroy Billy because he is
extremely wary of Billy's intentions. He has come to
believe that Billy is planning a mutiny and wants to take
control of the ship. Claggart reports this to captain Vere
saying," During today's chase and possible encounter I had
seen enough to convince me that at least one sailor aboard
was dangerous." Meaning that he felt Billy was against
them. Claggart felt that Billy's big plan was to get in
favor of all the men on the ship and then turn them against
the captain. Captain Vere responds by having Billy and
Claggart meet in private where Claggart can openly accuse
Billy of this crime. Fortunately, Claggarts attempt to
destroy Billy for mutiny fails because he is struck down by
Billy in one blow, ending the matter, but opening a much
more serious one. 

Claggart is also seen as attempting to destroy Billy due to
his evil nature in general. Nothing depicts Claggart's evil
nature better than the way he looks. " His cleanly chiseled
chin and cunning violet eyes that can cut lesser sailors
with an evil glare. His pale yellow skin and jet black
curly hair; they all contrast his character". He is out to
destroy Billy because of the constant struggle of good and
evil. Billy is innocent and cannot comprehend evil
therefore making him good. People calling Billy "baby budd,
and handsome sailor" just seem to contrast the good in him
even more. Claggart was born evil and therefore is evil.
Claggart would naturally be out to destroy Billy because he
is what Claggart is against. Just good vs. evil in a battle
for control. 
It is very true that jealousy is another reason why John
Claggart wanted the destruction of Billy Budd. Claggart was
never well liked by the crew . This would not have been a
problem except that Billy Budd was liked by the crew.
Every time he saw the love for Billy he was reminded of the
dislike for himself. One old sailor on the ship noticed
this too and warned Billy by saying, "Jimmy Leggs is down
on you". Jimmy Leggs referring to Claggart. One instance
which occured in the kitchen just made matters worse when
Billy spilled the soup he was making and it ran down the
corridor just as Claggart was walking by. Claggart did not
openly get angry at Billy for the accident, but inside felt
he had done it on purpose. As the soup ran down the
corridor it seemed to symbolize an actual line drawn
between the two. The resentment Claggart felt for Billy
made him look him too critically. That is a good reason why
Claggart could have thought Billy was planning a mutiny and
would want him destroyed. He was just jealous of Billy's
 John Claggart attempts to destroy Billy Budd because he
was envious of Billy's appearance and jealous of his


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