Free Essays – Contrast Between Good and Evil in Bi

lly Bud Herman Melville Billy Budd EssaysContrast Between Good and Evil in Billy Bud

Since the beginning of time, there has always been a
tenacious struggle between good and evil. In a particular famous book, The
Bible, the continuous clash between good and evil remains evident
throughout the work. In Herman Melville’s novel, Billy Budd, symbolism,
characterization, and irony are put to use to develop the dramatic contrast
between good and evil.

Symbolism is used to directly contrast good and evil. The
night before Billy’s hanging, “through the rose-tan of his complexion no
pallor could have shown.” Billy portrays a very pure Christ-like
character before his demise. His white garb, and natural glowing of light
makes his death seem symbolic for good. Claggort “who’s brow was of the
sort phrenologically associated with more than average intellect”
symbolically manipulated Billy Budd as did the “wisdom of the serpent”
manipulate Adam. Evil always tries to antagonize what is good. Therefore,
Claggort was Billy’s antagonist throughout Billy Budd. Also symbolic to
the novel is the actual demise of both Claggort and Billy Budd. Claggort’s
death is very short and appropriate “to his navel grade.” In contrast,
Billy’s death occurs during the dawn where ” Billy ascended; and ascending
took the full rose of the dawn.” Claggort’s death completely contrasts
with the pure death of Billy Budd. Billy’s death is portrayed as good,
conquering, and symbolic, which directly foils that of Claggort’s. Not
only using symbolism, Melville also uses characterization to contrast good
and evil.

Characterization is used to contrast the concepts of good
and evil. Billy Budd is “like a young horse fresh from the pasture
suddenly inhaling a vile whiff from some chemical factory.” Billy’s
innocence and purity is exterminated at the hands of his main enemy, John
Claggort, ” much such as Adam presumably might have been ere the urbane
Serpent wriggled himself into his company.” Claggort’s ” silken jet curls…
and pallor tinged with a faint shade of amber skin” even denote evil.
Dark traits are often used to express evil, as light and beauty to express
good. In contrast to Claggort, Billy Budd’s “welkin-eyes”, blonde hair,
and tan complexion ultimately portray good. Besides from the use of
characterization and symbolism, Melville uses irony to portray the battle
of good versus evil.

Irony is used to contrast the concepts of good and evil.
Billy, ” the fighting peacemaker” kills John Claggort with a blow “quick as
the flame from a discharged cannon.” It is ironic that Billy, this
innocent Christ like character loses his composure and ultimately does
something evil. Through out the novel Billy Budd is never aware of
Claggort’s ill will towards him. Even when warned, ” Jemmy legs is down
on you,” Billy still can not grasp the concept that evil can happen to him,
so when it does he doesn’t know how to react. It is ironic that right
before Billy’s hanging, he shouts “God Bless Captain Vere” even though Vere
was the main advocate in the prosecuting of him. It is overall ironic that
evil prevails in this novel. Claggort unfortunately ‘got the last laugh’.
He is able to adulterate Billy’s purity and innocence in such a way that
even the newspapers consider Billy as ” the criminal who paid the penalty
for his crime” In the end Claggort is portrayed as this martyr who is
killed by this evil, and bad person, Billy Budd. This assumption is a
major mistake.

To develop the dramatic contrast between good and evil in
the novel, Billy Budd, Herman Melville uses symbolism, characterization,
and irony. Good and evil are a flip of a coin, and separated by a very
thin line. The innocent martyr, Billy crossed this line once in the novel,
to cause his downfall. After reading Billy Budd the reader ultimately
realizes good and evil with out a problem.