Herman Melville’s Billy budd, sailor is masterpiece in terms of its content and organization. Melville’s work has made him one of the most remarkable romantic authors in the nineteenth century whose work has been used as a bench mark for many upcoming writers. His short story Billy budd, sailor, Melville creates a romantic phenomenon whereby the characters involved are the exact opposite of each other. The character Billy is a representation of the good attribute of human behavior. On the contrary, Claggart represents the evil side of the human race. Melville paints Billy as being an innocent character that lacks enough education about the operations of the ship. On the other hand, Claggart is painted as being a person who is intelligent and adequately understands the operations and the way in which the ship is run. Clearly, these men present a dual attribute of the human character. Melville also explains that there a difference between the two charters, Billy and Claggart, in terms of their physical attributes. Melville writes that “ Billy was a big, dark-skinned, healthy man while Claggart was pale andSeemed to hint that there was something defective and abnormal in the constitution and blood” (Melville 448). It is the difference in the body structures of these two characters that Melville brings out the theme of the handsome sailor. According to Melville, there are three attributes that constitute a handsome sailor. Melville paints Billy as possessing all these three attributes.
The first attribute that a handsome sailor has to possess is that the sailor has to be attractive physically. Melville seems to be attracted to Billy’s eyes. Melville defines the eyes as being “ welkin eyed.” As the story progresses Melville explains that Billy had an attractive body. He explains that Billy’s body was athletic. It was because of Billy’s beautiful body that the Captain of the ship promotes Billy so that the young boy with a beautiful body can be constantly in his sight (Melville 345). This attraction to beauty is theme that is evident in today’s society. There have been many cases in where people have hired secretary based on their looks. It is not abnormal for many mangers to consider hiring sectaries that are attractive to their eyes so as to satisfy their lust.
The second attribute that constitutes the theme of the handsome sailor based on Melville’s story Billy budd; sailor is the idea of physical appeal. Melville explains that Lieutenant Ratcliff decides to choose Billy even before he completes his inspection because of how appealing Billy looked. Melville explains that Billy is simple and his heart that exhibits goodness cannot go unnoticed. This is a theme that can be traced even in the society today. There are individuals who are able to acquire different career positions even before they complete their interviews. This is because some people possess a sense of self-appeal that makes them standout when compared to other people. This could result from how their talk, act, and carry themselves.
The third attribute that constitutes the theme of the handsome sailor is the vigor and strength that a given sailor put into his work. According to Melville, Billy is a hardworking man and this is the reason why he is able to quickly rise through the ranks. This trend is evident today in that most of the people who show more commitment in their jobs stand a better chance of getting a promotion. Gutek writes that “ all too often, we see hardworking people getting promoted to other competent levels” (Gutek 67). The other important theme that arises from the romantic period in which this story was written is the theme of desire. Melville explains that there were many people who admired Billy’s body characteristics. Based on the fact that many of the people in the ship of men, it poses the question of whether there was a male to male attraction within the romantic period of the late nineteenth century. It appears that within the short story Billy budd, sailor that Melville does not focus more on the desires that Billy as a charter had in life but focuses on how Billy helped satisfy the bodily desires of the men on board in the ship. Most of the men within the ship are excited about Billy’s body. Melville explains that most of the men within the ship treat Billy as being a kind of superhero who has the ability to excite their desires. However, Melville seems to take a careful approach by bringing the notion that Billy was a king of superior character that did not necessarily excite his fellow sailors in a sexual way. This means that Melville does not bring a clear picture of whether “ homo-social’ relationships was an attribute that was evident in the nineteenth century romanticism.
In conclusion, Melville describes the characteristics of the romantic period as period that was highly favorable to the beauty of the physical body as evident in the case of Billy. In addition, self-appeal to the people around a given character and the strength and vigor with which they addressed their duties and responsibilities.
Gutek, Glenn, And G. Wide Awake Leadership. Washington D. C.: Xlibris Corporation,
Melville, Herman. Billy Budd, Sailor and Other Stories. New York: Penguin Books,