Billy Bud: A Captain's Duty

             In the novel, Billy Budd, Herman Melville searches for answers to moral dilemmas. The reader is compelled to contemplate the battle between good and evil and the controversy over how a person can separate them. A person relies on their knowledge of right and wrong to make the most responsible decision. Society has created legal standards that define right and wrong. A decision’s propriety is often based upon the outcome of the situation. Melville did not write the outcome as if Vere had chosen to spare Billy Budd but did provide an insight into what might have happened if Billy Bud was spared. Captain Vere’s speech to the drum-head court explains his reasoning for his decision. In Melville’s novel, Billy Budd, Captain Vere’s ultimate decision was morally, legally, and politically responsible.
             There are some issues that do not have a simple answer. However, society has been able to define some behavior as morally wrong. In society there is a talk of the "greater good". Even though there are many differing religions, society has been able to take religious and moral principles and apply them to laws. Murder is an action that society regards as intolerable. Even though Billy Budd had no intentions of killing Claggart, he still committed a horrible offense. Claggart provoked Billy Budd to anger but that cannot justify Billy Budd’s actions. Billy Budd committed a morally wrong offense and needed to be punished for his behavior. Therefore, it was Captain Vere’s moral obligation to convict Billy Budd.
             Laws are enforced by those in authority. Captain Vere needed to fulfill his official duty by enforcing the laws. Without punishment, laws cannot be effective. Everyone has to be under the same law and suffer the same consequences for their actions. There are innumerable emotions that trigger a violent response but the law cannot provide for emotional excuses. In the army the laws are strictly followed and enf...

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Billy Bud: A Captain's Duty. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 07:51, February 28, 2017, from