52 in 52 Week 8: Billy Budd by Herman Melville
At his death, he left the manuscript of BILLY BUDD, SAILOR. This short novel, first published in 1924 and considered Melville's finest book after MOBY-DICK, is a symbolic story about the clash between innocence and evil, and between social forms and individual liberty.
From THE WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA © 2007 World Book, Inc.
[Nathaniel] Hawthorne's fiction had a profound impact on his friend Herman Melville (1819–1891), who first made a name for himself by turning material from his seafaring days into exotic and sensational sea narrative novels. Inspired by Hawthorne's focus on allegories and dark psychology, Melville went on to write romances replete with philosophical speculation. In Moby-Dick, an adventurous whaling voyage becomes the vehicle for examining such themes as obsession, the nature of evil, and human struggle against the elements. In another fine work, the short novel Billy Budd, Melville dramatizes the conflicting claims of duty and compassion on board a ship in time of war. His more profound books sold poorly, and he had been long forgotten by the time of his death. He was rediscovered in the early decades of the 20th century.Anti-transcendental works from Melville, Hawthorne, and Poe all comprise the Dark Romanticism subgenre of literature popular during this time.About Dark Romanticism from Wikipedia:
Dark Romanticism (often conflated with Gothicism or called American Romanticism) is a literary subgenre. It has been suggested that Dark Romantics present individuals as prone to sin and self-destruction, not as inherently possessing divinity and wisdom. G. R. Thompson describes this disagreement, stating "the Dark Romantics adapted images of anthropomorphized evil in the form of Satan, devils, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and ghouls." For these Dark Romantics, the natural world is dark, decaying, and mysterious; when it does reveal truth to man, its revelations are evil and hellish. Finally, whereas Transcendentalists advocatesocial reform when appropriate, works of Dark Romanticism frequently show individuals failing in their attempts to make changes for the better. Thompson sums up the characteristics of the subgenre, writing:
- Fallen man's inability fully to comprehend haunting reminders of another, supernatural realm that yet seemed not to exist, the constant perplexity of inexplicable and vastly metaphysical phenomena, a propensity for seemingly perverse or evil moral choices that had no firm or fixed measure or rule, and a sense of nameless guilt combined with a suspicion the external world was a delusive projection of the mind--these were major elements in the vision of man the Dark Romantics opposed to the mainstream of Romantic thought.
I have read that Billy Budd is a Christ figure too. The moral dilemma in this novella is amazing. I really liked this story.