2 November 2018
Billy Budd essay
In determining a just outcome for a case, one must ponder the extent martial law has and the concept of moral laws. In Billy Budd by Herman Melville, the strict adherence to martial laws does not serve Billy Budd a just outcome in his case. A strict adherence to martial law, which morals do not influence, can not deliver this judgement due to justice being a generalized concept of right and wrong. The extent of martial laws can not serve justice in Billy Budd’s case. Using moral values delivers a just outcome, but ultimately Captain Vere was the deciding factor for the consequence. Martial laws set standards in society, but it does little to serve justice.
Martial laws can only serve justice to the extent of the government willing to enforce them. Due to the judges and Captain Vere having a strict adherence to the martial law in Billy Budd’s case, they did not consider morals or the nature of Billy and Claggart. Billy Budd knew the consequences of striking a superior officer. However, in this case, Claggart did antagonize Billy, falsely accusing him of mutiny. Billy knew the consequences of mutiny as well and became shocked when he heard this statement due to his primitive nature described as “amazement at such an accusation so suddenly sprung on inexperienced nonage”(Melville 81). One must also consider the evil nature of Claggart as described as “With no power to annul the elemental evil in him, though readily enough he could hide it.” The extent of the martial law does not consider these facts when determining the outcome. The laws simply infer that killing a superior officer results in the death of the murderer. Billy Budd did not mean to intentionally kill Claggart. His primitive nature can not think the abstract; therefore, Billy can not comprehend malice towards him and others. In this case, the laws being manipulated and mitigated fit the certain case and people. Doing this, results in moral values being applied and a just outcome being served.
This case requires the values of morals to deliver a just outcome. The crewman on the Bellipotent and others know of Billy’s kindness and innocence. They know that Billy would not kill due to his nature. They also know that Billy tried to befriend Claggart, although he did not know of his malice. During the case, Billy said, “I did not mean to kill him. Could I used my tongue I would not have struck him. But he foully lied to my face...” (Melville 91). The judges in this case needed to consider Billy’s incomprehensible and simplistic nature. They did not consider Claggart’s malice towards Billy as well. Because of this,...