Billy Budd

Billy Budd Study Guide

Why does Melville begin the story with a description of the Handsome Sailor? What does this figure seem to represent? What is the significance of the fact that the first example Melville cites of the Hansome Sailor is “a native African of the unadulterated blood of Ham”? What characteristics does Billy share with the Black Handsome Sailor? What is the purpose of the analogies Melville suggests between the “barbarians” of pre-Christian Europe, Africa, and the South Seas? In what respects does Billy fail to conform fully to the Handsome Sailor archetype?

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