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Did You Know

The story of Billy Budd underwent some radical changes in the course of composition. Billy Budd started out as a mutineer, but Melville changed him to an innocent. Captain Vere went from a minor to a major character, and Claggart wasn't even in the story at first. Melville changed the name of the ship from the Indomitable to the Bellipotent, which placed the emphasis more on war.

The British naval practice of impressment - unlawful seizure - of sailors to fill their warships continued well after the time frame of this story, the summer of 1797. As Melville explains in Billy Budd , conditions aboard the British warships were notoriously cruel and poor. As the British navy ran out of vessels they could plunder for sailors around British waters, they started to impress sailors from American ships. This was one of the reasons that the War of 1812 between America and Britain began.

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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