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Billy Budd Religious Symbolism Essay

  • Submitted by: mattdial325
  • on February 26, 2012
  • Category: English
  • Length: 1,496 words

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Below is an essay on "Billy Budd Religious Symbolism" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

Billy Budd: One for All
In Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, the Christian symbolism can be baffling at certain points of the novel. In Chapter 18 Melville writes, “Then would Claggart look like the man of sorrows,” a biblical allusion relating to Isaiah 53: 1-5, in which Jesus is characterized as the “man of sorrows.” Thus, is Claggart, the apotheosis of evil, also an angelic body (Timmerman 28)? Because Melville writes so ambiguously in Billy Budd, there will always be several different interpretations and analyses. For example, in the battle between good and evil, Melville asserts that good people must die in order to stop evil through his use of biblical symbolism in Claggart, Billy Budd, and Captain Vere.
In Melville’s Billy Budd, Claggart, the Master-at-Arms aboard the Bellipotent, is a symbol for evil or Satan. John Claggart’s name characterizes his role in Melville’s novel. His common English given name paired with the harsh, cacophonous name of “Claggart” typifies his role as a conniving figure of evil. The fact that Claggart is evil is inevitable because the physical descriptions of Claggart are less appealing than those of Billy Budd, the ideal of an uncorrupted man newly aboard the Bellipotent, and help indicate his evil nature (Smith). The narrator describes Claggart by stating, “his complexion…though it was not exactly displeasing, nevertheless seemed to hint something defective or abnormal in the constitution and blood” (qtd. in Smith). Smith helps explain that it’s not hard to tell that Claggart is evil because his appearance signals the other characters and reader about his evil nature. Typically, people relate outward appearance to inward characteristics, motives, and values, such as in Claggart’s case. Claggart’s evil-minded nature with “something defective or abnormal in the constitution and blood,” has always been present to destroy the plan of good. Claggart’s evil is “born within him and innate,” and its appearance is always stimulated by...

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