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Billy Budd, Sailor (Enriched Classics (Simon & Schuster))

Billy Budd, Sailor (Enriched Classics) - Herman Melville Billy Budd adds to the evidence in Moby Dick that Melville was a master of the English language and a master of all things nautical. It's a great, short tale of good, evil and the sometimes harrowing injustice of circumstance. It was fascinating to see in Melville's last work, the dramatic difference in his earlier writing and the style of Billy Budd. For example, comparing two completely random sentences, first from Typee:In the course of a few days Toby had recovered from the effects of his adventure with the Happar warriors; the wound on his head rapidly healing under the vegetable treatment of the good Tinor.And from Billy Budd:Nevertheless, to anybody who can hold the Present at its worth without being inappreciative of the Past, it may be forgiven, if to such an one the solitary old hulk at Portsmouth, Nelson's Victory, seems to float there, not alone as the decaying monument of a fame incorruptible, but also as a poetic reproach, softened by its picturesqueness, to the Monitors and yet mightier hulls of the European ironclads.The language in Billy Budd is remarkably more dense and lush. It makes for a more difficult read, but also makes the effort that much more rewarding. A DigressionThe other reviews of Billy Budd by high school kids and adults who read Billy Budd in high school are indicative of the overall quality of education in the US. This isn't to come across as condescending, if I had read it in High School, my review would have probably been equally dismal since I was in no way prepared to appreciate a book that wasn't as exciting as a Bond movie or that used sentences more complex than Lord of the Flies. Billy Budd definitely shouldn't be required reading in high school, at least not until high school provides a competent enough education for students to appreciate a great work, even if they don't "like" it. But again, I digress.The story of Billy Budd isn't the most moving that I've ever read, but the characters are good and it's interesting moral dilemma. I think the criticism that it is too blatantly a metaphor for Christ come from people who either don't understand Billy Budd or don't understand the basics of the life of Christ. Budd is probably a metaphorical character and maybe even for Christ, but it's naive to give up on the book and characterize him as simply a mechanical metaphor for Christ. There are enough differences, enough other issues raised and enough nuances to make Billy Budd stand on its own as a solid book and a precautionary tale of the harsh realities of justice and circumstance.