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Chapter 22 and 23

Chapter 22

Captain Vere gave himself the duty of informing Billy Budd of the verdict. What actually happened behind the closed doors of the stateroom we don't know, but Melville offers some educated guesses. The captain probably told Billy the court's decision and honestly revealed that he argued in favor of the decision and his reasons for doing that. Most likely, Billy accepted the news with a certain sort of pride that the captain would be so honest with him. Captain Vere may have softened his tough exterior and hugged Billy as if he were his son. What truly happened, though, only those two can ever know. When the door opened and the two men came out, the first lieutenant noticed something remarkable. It seemed that the captain, who was only delivering the sentence, was in more agony than the one condemned to the sentence.

Chapter 23

From the moment that Billy Budd first entered the captain's cabin to this current moment in the story, only an hour and a half had elapsed. It was enough time, however, to arouse suspicion in the entire ship, and everyone by this time wondered what was going on. The entire crew was called on deck to hear the captain's address to his men. Vere briefly summarized the events that had taken place - the master-at-arms was dead and it had been decided that the man who killed him would hang in the early morning watch. When the captain's address had ended, there was some noise and general confusion, but it quickly suppressed by the boatswain's whistle. It was a delicate situation and the proceedings had to be dealt with strict observance of the rules in order for everything to go smoothly. Certain petty officers were given the command to give Claggart a proper naval burial. When Billy was brought out, he put up no struggle, which helped to maintain order on the ship. No one was allowed to talk to Billy (not even the captain) until the very end except for the ship's chaplain.

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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