Billy Budd

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Christian Imagery Symbol Analysis

Christian Imagery Symbol Icon
Throughout the novella, Billy Budd is admiringly compared to various Christian figures. He is often described as similar to Adam, emphasizing his complete innocence and lack of experience with the civilized, corrupt world. However, toward the end of the narrative, he is especially associated with Jesus Christ. He accepts his execution peacefully, and seems so at ease with his fate that the chaplain has no spiritual advice to give him. The mystical morning light that illuminates his body as it is hanged also paints Billy as a holy martyr. And in the days after Billy's death, the narrator notes that the sailors of the Indomitable treat the spar from which he was hanged as a special relic like the cross of Christ's crucifixion. All of this Christian imagery characterizes Billy as a martyr and emphasizes his innocence and good moral nature. Moreover, the idea of martyrdom and the association of Billy with Jesus underlines Billy's death as a sacrifice of individuality for a larger community, just as Jesus gave his own life for the benefit of all mankind.
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Christian Imagery Symbol Timeline in Billy Budd

The timeline below shows where the symbol Christian Imagery appears in Billy Budd. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 26
Natural Character and Appearance Theme Icon
Storytelling, Rumor, and Truth Theme Icon
...water, so that Billy's body hung in the light "with a soft glory as of the fleece of the Lamb of God seen in mystical vision." To the amazement of all on deck, Billy's body was perfectly... (full context)
Chapter 31
Natural Character and Appearance Theme Icon
Duty, Loyalty, and Camaraderie Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
The Present vs. the Past Theme Icon
...hanged as a monument. A piece of it was as valuable to them as a piece of the cross on which Christ was crucified. (full context)