There is much to be said about innocence. If one is with innocence than one can do no wrong. But that is not all to be said. Innocence is not always a good thing. It could make one naive or blind to certain evils. Like in the case of Billy Budd. Billy was innocent from evil and therefore could not see the evil of John Claggart approaching him, out to destroy him.
It is known Billy’s innocence was his down fall by hiding the true evil from his eyes. But why was John Claggart out to destroy Billy?. There are several reasons why John Claggart attempts to destroy Billy Budd. John Claggart wants to destroy Billy because he is extremely wary of Billy’s intentions. He has come to believe that Billy is planning a mutiny and wants to take over the ship. Claggart reports this to captain Vere saying,” During today’s chase and possible encounter I had seen enough to convince him that at least one sailor aboard was dangerous.” Meaning that he felt Billy was against them. Claggart felt that Billy’s big plan was to get in favor of all the men on the ship and then turn them against the captain. Captain Vere responds by having Billy and Claggart meet in private where Claggart can openly accuse Billy of this crime. Fortunately, Claggarts attempt to destroy Billy for mutiny fails because he is struck down by Billy in one blow, ending the matter, but opening a much more serious one.
Claggart is also seen as attempting to destroy Billy due to his evil nature in general. Nothing depicts Claggart’s evil nature better than the way he looks. His cleanly chiseled chin and cunning violet eyes that can cut lesser sailors with an evil glare. His pale yellow skin and jet black curly hair; they all contrast his character. He is out to destroy Billy because of the constant struggle of good and evil. Billy is innocent and cannot comprehend evil therefore making him good. People calling Billy “baby budd, and handsome sailor” just seem to contrast the good in him even more. Claggart was born evil and therefore is evil. Claggart would naturally be out to destroy Billy because he is what he is against. Just good vs. evil in a battle for control. That is why Claggart is naturally out to bring the downfall of Billy Budd.
Irony in Billy Budd
Billy Budd is a story filled with irony. This literary aspect can be seen through the plot and characters of the work. As defined in The American Heritage Dictionary, irony is the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. After a casual reading of the story’ the many ironic aspects may have been igonred, but after analyzing the story it becomes obvious that they are of great importance.
“…The fate of each character is the direct reverse of what one is led to expect from his nature” (Johnson, 185). The character of Billy Budd is portrayed as a peacemaker, a young, innocent, likable, sweet man. However, halfway through the story, he becomes a murderer. Billy Budd was first introduced to the reader as a good looking young man in good health who was honest and sincerely innocent. He does not believe that Claggart could dislike him, since he is so nice to his face. When Billy finds out about Claggart’s lies, he strikes him and kills him. This is not an action that was expected by readers due to the persona he exemplified throughout the first half of the story. Bil…