Billy Budd, Sailor, a novel by Herman Melville, at first sight, seems like it is nothing else but the story of a sailor who is executed after being wrongly accused of mutiny. But when one examines the story deeply one finds that the story has a different meaning and that Billy Budd resembles Christ in many ways. Billy Budd as a Christ figure According to the author’s description, Billy Budd, the main protagonist, like Christ was handsome, pure and as innocent as a child in a world full of evil men. He had the same physical features of Christ. Like Christ, he had blue eyes and a symmetrical figure.
The resemblance is evident in the first chapter when Captain Graveling, after the crew stopped fighting as soon as Billy joined them, says that Billy neither preached nor said anything to the crew. There was a kind of virtuousness in him that reached out to people. (Melville, 1924) The author here alludes to Christ who was also virtuous and healed all those who came into contact with him. The symbolism is more evident in the end chapters, especially in the scenes of the death of Billy Budd. For instance, Captain Vere cries, “Struck dead by an angel of God!
” (Melville, 1924) after Billy strikes Claggart, and then says, “Yet the angel must hang”, (Melville, 1924) when he realizes that Billy has to die. Billy, before he dies, says, “God bless Captain Vere”. (Melville, 1924) All this reminds us of Christ. Christ like Billy in the novel forgave all those who were responsible for his death. The resemblance is all the more evident in the last chapter when Billy is executed. Here the author describes how Billy’s shipmates worship the gallows from which Billy was hung. Christ’s followers too worshipped the Cross.
The setting and all the events that take place have a striking resemblance to the events that took place when Christ was executed. In conclusion it can be said that Billy Budd in the novel is not an ordinary sailor but a Christ-like figure, a symbol of Christ with characteristics of Christ. Just as Christ was a victim of an antagonistic society and had to sacrifice his life, Billy Budd too was an innocent victim of society and had to sacrifice his life. References Melville, Herman (1924), Billy Budd, Sailor, The University of Chicago Press, 1962.