Herman Melville's Billy Budd

Padilla, David, Department of English, University of Virginia
Howard, Alan, Department of English, University of Virginia

This website is dedicated to helping students of literature -- at all levels -- better understand Herman Melville's complex short novel, Billy Budd. Decidedly, these pages are not designed as an on-line "Cliff's Notes" edition of the work. Nowhere will you find synopses which "explain" the story or reveal some "hidden meaning." Nothing in this site will provide definitive answers to the difficult questions which this text raises, nor will it provide a template for the student seeking a quick and easy solution to the various problems it poses. Rather, this site should serve merely to enrich one's reading of Billy Budd by providing readily more information than otherwise might be accessible to most students. The designer of this site has brought together resources which might help clarify Melville's dense vocabulary, provide a framework for some of the lines of allusion, help the student better visualize the naval scenes, and generally provide some structure for the student so that his reading is as full as possible. One should note, however, that everything included here presupposes that reading and understanding Billy Budd can ultimately only be the product of hard work and attention to detail. There can never be a substitute for engagement between reader and text. Still, one can better understand this story by grasping some key vocabulary, recognizing some key literary conventions, and being able to picture the flow of action. It is my hope that by employing this website as complementary to one's own reading that each student of Melville can to some extent better understand the skill and artistry of Billy Budd.

MA (Master of Arts)

Originally published on the XRoads site for the UVA American Studies program. Years range from 1995-2005. Content is captured at the level of functionality available on the date of capture.

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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