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English (U.S.)
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Herman Melville's Captain Vere In Billy Budd (Essay Sample)


Herman Melville: Melville’s Captain Vere in Billy Budd is a highly ambiguous character. How do you judge his choices as regards Billy? Are we to respect the wise captain for his courageous commitment to his principles, or are we to condemn him for weakness and cowardice? In what ways does the text invite both contradictory readings? How have you resolved this for yourself? Why do you think Melville has taken such pains to keep Captain Vere ambiguous? Compose a detailed character study of Captain Vere in which you take a strong stand for your opinion of him.

About 1000 words recommended (minimum 750 required).

Be sure to quote frequently from your chosen texts. About 15-20% of your overall word-count should consist of quotation.  Use at least three quotations per body paragraph and analyze them closely.

Be sure to integrate, cite, and document your quotations correctly according to MLA style.

We write about literature in the present tense.

Grading criteria:

Substantive points of argument for thesis and topic sentences

Close/detailed/precise analysis of texts

Theoretical sophistication, depth of thought

Literary-historical context in the introduction paragraph and, when appropriate, throughout.

Overall quality of your writing: organization, style, grammar/mechanics.


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Herman Melville's Captain Vere in Billy Budd
Of the main characters, Captain Vera is the most controversial in Billy Budd. He is intelligent and active-minded, but his intelligence and brilliance bring him wisdom and humbleness rather than monomania; this feature seems to be absent in another character titled Claggart. It should be noticed that Captain Vera is a complete man and possesses all characteristics and features that are present in a brave and courageous guy. He speaks of his mind, takes actions wisely, and has a soft and kind heart. All the times, he proves himself to be a person with clear-thinking and well-versed ideas. As a frank and forthright commander, he proves his worth throughout his life and represents the synthesis of mind and heart (Rochlitz 2011).
Captain Vere's most controversial, unique and symbolic act is the execution and trial of Billy Budd, whom he considers his son and one of the most important persons of his life. Vere doesn't have extraordinary expectations with his life; he works day and night to earn a living and tends to perform his duty efficiently. According to Herman Melville, Vere loves putting the welfare and betterment of his nation above personal life, emotions, feelings, and affections. Not only this, but he also denies some of nature's rules and keeps supporting what is best and favorable to his state (Mudgett 2013).
In one way or the other, Captain Vere works for the prosperity of his companions and the entire state, so we don't need to condemn him for the mistakes he made in his life. Instead, we should notice the positive aspects of Vere's character and admit that he is a courageous and brave person. It's safe to say that every person commits mistakes, whether major or minor; neither you nor I am perfect, so as Captain Vere. If he committed some mistakes in his life, then we should not start calling him an arrogant or selfish person. Instead, we should understand his problems and needn't condemn him for his cowardice and weaknesses (Garner 2010).
The text invites both contradictory readings because it sheds light on the lifestyle of Captain Vere from both positive and negative ways.

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