Billy Budd Themes

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Duty and Conscience

Captain Vere's dilemma—whether to convict Billy and hang him in spite of his sense that the young sailor is innocent—arises from Vere's very nature. Captain Vere is characterized throughout Billy Budd as a man who heeds his duty. Even before Captain Vere appears, a description of the captain by minor character Captain Graveling of the Rights-of-Man anticipates the more central captain's problem: "His duty he always faithfully did; but duty is sometimes a dry obligation " The "dry-ness" of duty is in its disconnection from feeling or intuition: duty is intellectual rather than emotional. And Captain Vere is described as possessing "a marked leaning toward everything intellectual," and "never tolerating an infraction of discipline." He adheres to the law and expects his men to do so as well.

Captain Vere's nickname, "Starry Vere," comes from a poem by Andrew Marvell, in which allusion is made...

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This section contains 1,298 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Billy Budd Study Guide
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Novels for Students
Billy Budd from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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