Written some 40 years after Moby Dick, Melville's Billy Budd is a moving tale of good versus evil. Set aboard a British navy ship at the end of the eighteenth century, a young, innocent sailor's charm and good nature put the men around him at ease. Ship life agreed with Billy. He made friends quickly and was well liked, which infuriated John Claggart, the ship's cold-blooded superior officer.
Mutiny was a continual threat greatly feared by naval officers. Even minor offences were dealt with harshly to keep crews in their place, regardless of whether the accused was guilty or innocent.
The envious Master-at-Arms becomes obsessed with the destruction of the 'Handsome Sailor' and torments the young man until his false accusations lead to an eventual charge of treason against Billy.
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A good reading of a classic story
- H. Adams