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Billy Budd and Other Stories - Frederick Busch, Herman Melville This is a review only of Billy Budd, not this entire collection of stories.

I just read Billy Budd for the first time since college. Budd, the protagonist of this novella, is a symbol of innocence, and makes a better symbol than a character. His retains his innocence and simplicity (he is also illiterate and uneducated) throughout the story, and that naturally makes him lack any complexity. Assuming we're meant to take Budd's innocence completely seriously, as a Christian reader I find Budd a chimerical figure because I know no one in this sinful world is ever innocent. This story is supposed to be a parable, but parables should reflect reality.

All other aspects of the story are much less problematic. John Claggart and Captain Vere are characters who reflect reality, and are therefore more complex and interesting. Claggart distrusts his fellow man to the point of malice and, being an evil man, hates Billy Budd for his innocence. Vere understands both Claggart and Budd, suspects that Budd has been falsely accused, and suffers from guilt after his grim duty. And in what ultimately happens, the parable is valid but commonplace: a wicked man causes the death of a character who hasn't done anything wrong; why did such injustice happen?