Billy Budd


Herman Melville

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Billy Budd: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Returning to the story of the Nore Mutiny, the narrator says that although the mutiny was put down, the underlying tensions that led to it remained. Captains on numerous ships feared that discontented crews would mutiny. In some extreme cases, lieutenants felt compelled to stand behind their crews with drawn swords while they were working. Nelson, at that time a vice admiral, was reassigned to a difficult ship, in the hopes that his virtue would rub off on the crew and stop them from mutinying.
The navy is in a precarious position because the loyalty that it relies upon in its sailors seems to be dwindling. The tensions leading to mutiny arise in large part from the refusal of individual sailors to subordinate their own interests to the claims of the navy and society. The narrator describes the two ways that the navy sought to limit munities—by force and fear (lieutenant's with drawn swords) and by awing the men with virtuous and gallant captains who command respect despite conditions.
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