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Chapter 17 & 18 Notes from Billy Budd

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Billy Budd Chapter 17 & 18

"But after the little matter at the mess Billy Budd no more found himself in strange trouble at times about his hammock or his clothes bag or what not. As to that smile that occasionally sunned him, and the pleasant passing word, these were, if not more frequent, yet if anything more pronounced than before." Chapter 17, pg. 467

Claggart watches Billy with an odd look. He steps aside when he passes and flares up with anger if he comes upon the handsome sailor in surprise. Billy sees this behavior as merely odd. Other officers glare at him and he doesn't know why. They pass him and give him an evil look. He doesn't connect this to Claggart, but he should. Every time he sees the man who approached him with the guineas, he is smiled at. Billy, remarkably, never questions him. He wonders about it, but he never dares to ask.

Topic Tracking: Morality 5

Chapter 18

Because of the lack of frigates, the Bellipotent is often dispatched on missions it would not be otherwise considered for. This is mostly because of the character of the commander, Captain Vere. On one of these sorties, they encounter a smaller and faster enemy ship which they lose in the chase. After this encounter, Claggart approaches the Captain. Captain Vere asks him what is going on, and Claggart tells him that he watched the men during the pursuit and thinks at least one of them is too dangerous to be on the ship. According to Claggart, this man is stirring up troubles. The Captain is impatient, and he tells Claggart to hurry up and get to the point. Claggart replies that he has been watching one closely and he quietly alludes to mutiny. The Captain gets more impatient with these remarks and he asks for Claggart to name the sailor. When he names Billy Budd, Captain Vere is in total disbelief. Claggart tries to claim that Billy left the merchant ship dishonorably and that he uses his good looks to get people's trust. The Captain's attention has been drawn positively to Billy since he came on board. His behavior and attitude always impressed him. He remarks, "heed what you speak. Just now, and in a case like this, there is a yardarm-end for the false witness." Chapter 18, pg. 474. Claggart shakes his head. The moral quality of the Captain is very stern. He decides to test Claggart. He has a young man fetch Billy and take him to a quiet place where the master-at-arms may accuse him in person.

Topic Tracking: Morality 6
Topic Tracking: Historical Context 4

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