Billy Budd

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Billy Budd Chapter 25 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator describes Billy being kept watch over in an upper gun deck, lying between two guns. The narrator notes that Billy's white clothes gleamed in contrast to the nighttime darkness of his surroundings, which were lit by two small lanterns. Billy's earlier expression of agony and dismay was gone, and he now looked restful and serene.
Not only Billy's facial expression, but even his outward appearance through his shining clothes, demonstrates his inner peace and innocence.
Themes
Natural Character and Appearance Theme Icon
The ship's chaplain approached Billy, but felt that he could not say anything to him, because Billy looked so peaceful. The narrator says that Billy was unafraid of death, because he was like an uncivilized barbarian, and the fear of death is "more prevalent in highly civilized communities."
Billy's innocence links him to the distant, uncivilized past, and the narrator lauds those times as being somehow nobler than the present with their lack of the fear of death.
Themes
The Present vs. the Past Theme Icon
The chaplain attempted to convey to Billy some idea of death and of salvation. Billy listened politely, but did not take a real interest in the Chaplain's words. The chaplain did not mind this, thinking "innocence was even a better thing than religion," and kissed Billy on the cheek before leaving.
Although it is the chaplain's duty as a member of the church to speak with Billy about death, he makes the judgment as an individual that Billy is so innocent he is not in need of spiritual help. Billy might be described as existing in a pre-fall state, as being a kind of Adam before sin entered the garden of Eden, and therefore needing no religion to absolve him of sin he does not have. Again, though, one might wonder if the narrator's extreme idealization of Billy here is truly indicative of the real Billy (who did, after all, lie about the possibly mutiny to the court).
Themes
Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
The narrator says that it was out of the chaplain's power to do anything to stop Billy's death, even as he saw Billy's great innocence. To try to do something would be a transgression of his role on the Indomitable. Moreover, the narrator claims that the very existence of a chaplain on a warship is incongruous, because the chaplain is a minister of peace aboard a vessel of war. His real purpose on the ship, according to the narrator, is to sanctify the "brute Force" of the warship.
While the chaplain individually might feel that Billy does not deserve death, he would not transgress his duty as a member of the Indomitable. The narrator's cynical view of the purpose of the chaplain aboard the warship provides another example of society curbing individuals, as the navy prevents the chaplain from actually ministering peace onboard.
Themes
Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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