"Billy Budd, Foretopman" by Herman Mellville.

Essay by jimbof3High School, 10th grade November 2002

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Captain Vere Deals With his Burden of Knowledge

On the ship, Indomitable, in Billy Budd, Foretopman, by Herman Mellville, Vere, the captain, gains the burden of knowledge, much like a man who finds a dying deer on the side of the road. Once he examines the deer, he realizes it bears child and must decide what to do with it. Captain Vere sees Billy, the foretopman, kill Claggart, the master-at-arms, albeit even by accident, he must decide what to make of this difficult situation. Vere makes the just choice in the end and learns the fate of Billy before he has to.

Initially Captain Vere works well with his crew on the Indomitable. His crew likes him, and he has a judge like mentality. He is down to earth and somewhat easygoing: "Though practical enough upon occasion, [Vere] would at times betray a certain dreaminess of mood. Standing alone on the weatherside of the greater deck, one hand holding by the rigging, he would absently gaze off at the black sea" (21).

Vere shows how he can enjoy his surroundings and not get bogged down in life and its troubles.

Soon Billy Budd joins the crew, against his will, and all but one of the crew likes him. Claggart, the master-at-arms, shows his evil as he constantly bothers Billy. Claggart, a respected man, instructs the men on board how to use their weapons, but while off-duty, he finds the time to bother Billy Budd about his quarters and punish him for what everyone else gets away with. Claggart proves to be jealous of how innocently and peacefully Billy acts and works, that when Billy spills his soup-pan on the newly-scrubbed deck, he gets angry: "Claggart... happened to be passing along [where] the mess was lodged... Stepping over it, he...