Book 28: Billy Budd

TITLE: Billy Budd
AUTHOR: Herman Melville
STARTED: May 27, 2007
FINISHED: May 31, 2007
PAGES: 128
GENRE: Literature

FIRST SENTENCE: In the time before steamships, or then more frequently than now, a stroller along the docks of any considerable seaport would occasionally have his attention arrested by a group of bronzed mariners, man-of-war's men or merchant sailors in holiday attire, ashore on liberty.

SUMMARY: [From] It is a time of war between nations, but on one ship, a smaller battle is being fought between two men. Jealous of Billy Budd, the "Handsome Sailor, " the envious Master-At-Arms Claggart torments the young man until his false accusations lead to a charge of treason against Billy.

REASON FOR READING: It's a classic that I should have read in high school

THOUGHTS: I read this book telling myself that it was my Melville test run. I have not met a single person who enjoyed Moby Dick - outside of the first line. When I saw Billy Budd at the library, I thought, "Hmm... if I can make it through this short thing, and not hate it, maybe I will give Moby Dick a try." Well, I really disliked this book. I felt that, even with it's short length, there were too many superfluous chapters. Seriously, why did Melville need to bring up Nelson and Trafalgar?

Also, there was no tension in this book, and no real plot. I felt that Melville was just trying to say Billy is awesome but he has sh*t for luck. Melville also seems to be waxing poetic in an area of "Where do we draw the line?" philosophy, but it's just so blah that there's no point for it to be in the book.

I think I said "WTF?" more often with this book than any other; it just did nothing for me. Melville has an extensive vocabulary, that's about it.

MISCELLANEOUS: Umm... if Billy Budd was called "The Handsome Sailor" why is the model on the cover the epitome of 1970s ickiness?

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]


Anonymous said…
You know, Meghan, this is maybe the second or third time I've looked at your book list, and I'll admit, I'll probably never look at it again, because Billy Budd is one of my top five favorite reads. Just because things are about sailors doesn't mean they're full of action and adventure. It's a sad story on the human condition and an allegory for Christ. Billy, the innocent child, is condemned really because he's too good to know better. Claggart is Satanrific. And, Vere, who I shadily wrote my AP English Lit AP Test Essay about, is Pontius Pilate. He doesn't believe Billy is guilty, but he disregards his personal feelings and essentially condemns him anyways. Plus, how can you hate a book that's first line talks about "bronzed mariners". You're too smart to hate this book. One day, give it a try again with an open mind. That, or write something really good about "Good Omens" or "The Importance of Being Earnest" because I love book recommendations and I love wasting time on blogs. - KBerge
Meghan said…
I was not expecting this book to be an action adventure. If I had wanted daring on the high seas, I would have picked up a Patrick O'Brien novel. I knew going into the book that it was more about allegory and morality.

That said, I still didn't enjoy it. The writing felt sloppy and the narrative disorganized.
piksea said…
I've always found his short story 'Bartleby the Scrivener' to be haunting. We covered parts of 'Moby Dick' in a lit class. Did you know the whale isn't even mentioned until,I think, Chapter 38? What is up with that? Were there no editors in Melville's day?
Meghan said…
I did indeed know that the whale was missing from the first chunk of the book. I once had someone (possibly my father) tell me that you could skip the first 200 pages and still know what was going on.