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Chapter 23 & 24 Notes from Billy Budd

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Billy Budd Chapter 23 & 24

Only an hour and a half elapsed between the incident and Billy's sentencing. It was long enough, however, to make sailors wonder where the officers went. All the men are called on deck and Captain Vere announces the events without mentioning the word 'mutiny.' The sailors listen as if in church and then they are dismissed. They do not challenge any of the officers and they are silent. Vere speaks carefully, knowing well that such an event could cause a disquiet in the crew that could only lead to mutiny.

Claggart's body is prepared for burial at sea. Procedure is followed to the letter; Claggart is given the burial required for an officer. Captain Vere ceases to speak to Billy in accordance with these rules. Billy is escorted to the brig by guards.

Chapter 24

Billy is under guard and in chains with sentries throughout the night. Although he is not pale, the agony is evident on his face. The chaplain sees this but cannot speak to him. Later he returns and they speak briefly. Billy speaks directly of his death. The chaplain tries to confer upon him a harsher idea of death: "Out of natural courtesy he received, but did not appropriate. It was like a gift placed in the palm of an outreached hand upon which the fingers do not close." Chapter 24, pg. 495. The minister kisses Billy's cheek and walks away. It is described as odd that a man of God is paid by the minister of war, whom the author refers to as Mars. Thus Christianity is asserted to have developed: it became impure through its new manifestations. Melville is disdainful of this organized religion as he digresses.

Topic Tracking: Religion 3

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