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A Song of Billy Budd’s Innocence in Billy Budd, Sailor

Author ZhouXiaoChuan
Tutor GanWenPing
School Wuhan University of Technology
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords Billy Budd, Sailor archetype innocence experience evil intelligence
Type Master's thesis
Year 2008
Downloads 184
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Herman Melville is one of the greatest litterateurs of American Romantic period in the 19th century. His works boast profound meanings and philosophies. The novella Billy Budd, Sailor is Melville’s last work before he died in 1891. But it had not been published until 1924, 33 years after his death. Since then, the novella has been of the great interests of the innumerous western scholars. They investigate and construe the novella from diverse angles by employing various theologies while, up to now, the research works in China stay sporadic. From the unique point of innocence motif with the relevant theories of innocence archetypes and images related to Myth-Archetypal criticism, the author of this thesis mainly treats the positive meaning and sublimity of the protagonist Billy Budd’s innocence in Billy Budd, Sailor by comparatively analyzing the archetypal images opposite to innocence, such as, experience, evil and intelligence. This thesis is divided into the five parts:The first part is a brief introduction to the author Herman Melville’s life experience, his works and statues in American literature, the writing process and the plot of Billy Budd, Sailor, the various critical views as well as the present research statues quo of the novella Billy Budd, Sailor both at home and abroad.The second part firstly illustrates the definitions of innocence in terms of human nature and morality, then the presentation of innocence in archetype by resorting to the relevant innocent archetypes and images in both Hebraic and Hellenic myths, finally reviews and concludes the prevailing existence of innocence motif in American literature.The third part penetrates the essence and profundity of Billy Budd’s innocence in the novella Billy Budd, Sailor through the analysis of the interaction between Billy Budd and the other three characters. First, this chapter illustrates the archetypal manifestation of Billy Budd’s innocence; then it analyzes respectively the growth, indomitableness and holiness of Billy Budd’s innocence by contrasting three relations between Billy Budd and Dansker, Claggart and Captain Vere—innocence and experience, innocence and evil, innocence and intelligence—together with their corresponding archetypal characteristics.The fourth part demonstrates the influence and significance of Billy Budd’s innocence on the Bellipotent after his hanging. Firstly, by analyzing the reasons of Captain Vere’s last yelling Billy Budd’ name, this chapter posts Captain Vere’s regret to Billy Budd and his yearning to Billy Budd’s innocence; Secondly, it construes sailors’ spontaneous mourning for Billy Budd, which sets off the sublimity and immortality of his innocence.In the last part the conclusion is made and it is pointed out that the angle of innocence can also be used as a fresh look into Herman Melville’s other works.

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