Billy Budd


Herman Melville

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Billy Budd: Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

At four in the morning, the crew was called to deck to witness Billy's execution. The chaplain was with Billy in his final moments, but the narrator notes that the chaplain did not so much speak the Gospel as display it "in his aspect and manner toward [Billy.]" Billy's final words were "God bless Captain Vere!" and the entire crew repeated these words after him.
The chaplain scarcely needs to speak, as his "aspect and manner" clearly display his feelings. Billy is loyal until the end, as his last words reaffirm his obedience to his captain, and evince his willingness to sacrifice his own rights, and life, to the needs of that captain and, by extension, the navy and his king.
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Related Quotes
Billy was hanged, and at that precise moment the sun illuminated the fog hanging over the 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 still when he was hanged.
The narrator relates the almost miraculous appearance of Billy's execution, marked especially by the remarkable perfect stillness of his hanging body—but given sailors' propensity to exaggerate, is it possible the narrator's admiration for Billy is influencing his version of the tale?
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