The Execution Of Billy Budd Essay example

2098 Words Aug 30th, 2016 null Page
After a thorough analysis of Captain Vere and his judgment of Billy in her essay “The Execution of Billy Budd”, Barbara Johnson concludes, “what this means is that every judge is in the impossible position of having to include the effects of his own act of judging within the cognitive context of his decision” (Johnson, 599). Captain Vere is worried that, should he mitigate Billy’s penalty, despite the crew’s and his own feelings that Billy’s sentence is too harsh, a precedent may be set that will allow for improper judgment in future conflicts. If Vere were to ignore the effects of his judgment, perhaps Billy would have lived. Unfortunately this is not the case, and Johnson, passing her own judgment, writes, “what Melville shows in Billy Budd is that authority consists precisely in the impossibility of containing the effects of its own application,” (Johnson, 599) . Although Johnson comes to these conclusions after an analysis of the Captain Vere, a similar conclusion can be drawn if the analysis were of the narrator. Billy Budd’s narrator struggles with the effects his authority and his judgment have on Billy’s story. The narrator finds himself in the impossible position faced by Vere, where he must pass judgment but cannot control how his readers will apply that judgment to their understanding of the story. The narrator of Billy Budd is caught between two styles of narration: the omniscient third-person narrator and the unreliable first-person narrator (Wood). What the…

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