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June 08 , 2010

Billy Budd and Other Stories


Known best for his avant-garde and modernistic style, Herman Melville's stories come together in the compilation "Billy Budd and Other Stories." In "Billy Budd, Foretopman," Melville returns to the sea life and describes the tale of a well-liked sailor who is wrongly convicted of trying to enact mutiny against the ship's master at arms. Billy Budd accidentally kills his superior during a fight, and he is sentenced to death and hung in front of the whole crew. It is a story about good and evil, with Billy Budd representing the right, while his antagonist is frequently described as a snake, like the serpent in the Bible. The story is also about justice and how justice isn't always served in certain cases. In his other works, Melville leads his audience on journeys to uncover the identity of America; many of America's citizens were suffering an identity crisis due to the shifting social and political climate of the 1800's, and Melville personified these feelings in his shorter works. Melville had a difficult time finding an audience during his life, though, so many of his works went unnoticed and undiscovered until the 20th century during a "Melville Revival." It is because of this revival that works like "The Piazza" and "The Bell Tower" have found their place in the great canon of American literature.
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