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Chapter 16 and 17

Chapter 16

Billy was rather gullible, and he believed that since Claggart always said nice things about him, there was no possibility that the Dansker could be right about Claggart. Billy remained innocent into young adulthood for several reasons. While most children are innocent, they lose that innocence as they become more intelligent. Billy was a "child-man" and even as he aged and his intelligence developed, he never lost that simple-mindedness that young children have. As he was still young, he didn't have much life experience, and furthermore most of his life was spent at sea. Melville says that sailors don't learn much about human deception and how to watch out for it when they're at sea. They don't have to because they spend their entire lives following orders from their superior officers. On land, however, most people have to think for themselves, which leads landsmen to behave in a deceptive manner. Distrust and trickery become such a common way of life that many landsmen don't even realize what they've become until it's too late. Billy Budd represents the extreme of the innocent sailor while John Claggart represents the opposite extreme of the deceptive landsman.

Chapter 17

After the soup-spilling incident, Billy didn't have any problems with the ship's policemen, and he was happier than ever. Claggart, on the other hand, strangely cried when he saw Billy having fun with the other young sailors. A part of Claggart loved Billy as much as he hated Billy, but he refused to admit it. Whenever he passed by Billy, he stepped out the way and gave a fake smile, perhaps to hide a creepy red flicker of light from his eyes whenever he saw Billy unexpectedly. Billy never thought there was anything wrong with the way Claggart looked at him - maybe a little weird but nothing more. And since everyone generally liked Billy as the Handsome Sailor, he didn't really notice that some other minor officers looked him in a negative way. They had been given a damaging report from Claggart, but Billy had no reason to suspect that someone was badmouthing him. As for the afterguardsman, he continued to greet Billy in a cheerful manner, and Billy got more or less used to it. Billy assumed that since he made it clear that he didn't want to be a part of any mutiny, everything could return to normal as if nothing had ever happened. Claggart was not like Billy; he couldn't ignore something and make it go away. His hatred of Billy ate at him deeper and deeper until he was ready to burst.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3 and 4
Chapter 5 and 6
Chapter 7 and 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12 and 13
Chapter 14 and 15
Chapter 16 and 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19 and 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22 and 23
Chapter 24 and 25
Chapter 26 and 27
Chapter 28, 29, and 30


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