Billy Budd: Herman Melville
Billy is a large, but kind naïve character with a stutter who was born an orphan
Claggart is not fond of Billy
Claggart accuses Billy of being the ringleader of a mutiny
Captain Vere didn’t believe the accusation and wanted Billy to justify it
Because Billy has a speech impediment (stutter), he couldn’t deny the accusations
Out of panic, Billy strikes and kills Claggart without meaning to
Vere wanted to acquit Billy but did not in the fear of mutiny
Billy was executed in order to maintain order and avoid a precedent that if Billy
could hit a commander, others would be too.
Morally, Billy would not be charged
According to full law (Dworkin), Billy would have been let go
Vere made a judgment of the law as it is (positivist)
He separated his moral views from duty and the law
Aristotle’s point of view: Billy was wrongfully convicted and Vere failed to apply
Pg 75: “The first Lieutenant…”
Pg 75- “God will bless you for that…”
Pg 94- “Resonance…
Pg- “and goodbye to you oh rights of man…”
“Habitually living with the elements and knowing little more of the land than as a
beach, or rather, that portion . . . set apart for dance-houses, doxies, and tapsters,
in short what sailors call a “fiddler’s green,” his simple nature remained
unsophisticated by those moral obliquities which are not in every case
incompatible with that manufacturable thing known as respectability. But are
sailors, frequenters of fiddlers’greens, without vices? No; but less often than with
landsmen do their vices, so called, partake of crookedness of heart, seeming less
to proceed from viciousness than exuberance of vitality after long constraint;
frank manifestations in accordance with natural law. By his original constitution
aided by the co-operating influences of his lot, Billy in many respects was little
more than a sort of upright barbarian, much such perhaps as Adam presumably
might have been ere the urbane Serpent wriggled himself into his company.”
In this quotation from Chapter 2, the narrator suggests that sailors are less likely to be
wicked than men on land, since they are not exposed to difficult moral situations.
Although sailors may drink and consort with prostitutes when on shore, thus gaining a
sullied reputation, supposedly respectable people actually encounter more serious moral
problems. Unlike people who spend most of their time on land, sailors do not commit vice out of “crookedness of heart” or “viciousness”—in other words, evil. Rather, they
act sinfully because they have been confined at sea for a long time and have “natural”
inclinations and an abundance of energy. Thus, although Billy has spent most of his time
either on a ship or in areas of towns devoted to vice, he has nevertheless preserved his
near-total ignorance of evil. Billy, if not the full-fledged physical and moral Handsome
Sailor ideal, is so innocent that he stands out as an “upright barbarian” nonetheless. The
last line subtly foreshadows the arrival of Claggart, who does tempt Billy to evil like the
serpent. Significantly, the narrator describes the serpent as “urbane”—urbanity signifying
sophistication and being the opposite of innocence. Thus, Melville equates evil with
experience in society.
“And now, Dansker, do tell me what you think of it.”The old man, shoving up the
front of his tarpaulin and deliberately rubbing the long slant scar at the point
where it entered the thin hair, laconically said, “Baby Budd, Jemmy Legs is down
on you.””Jemmy Legs!” ejaculated Billy, his welkin eyes expanding. “What for?
Why, he calls me ‘the sweet and pleasant young fellow,’they tell me.””Does he
so?” grinned the grizzled one; then said, “Ay, Baby lad, a sweet voice has Jemmy
Legs.””No, not always. But to me he has. I seldom pass him but there comes a
pleasant word.””And that’s because he’s down upon you, Baby Budd.”
This passage occurs in Chapter 9, when Billy, baffled about why he seems to be having
so many problems on the ship, asks the Dansker for advice, and receives the old sailor’s
warning that Claggart (called “Jemmy Legs” by the men) is his enemy. The quote is
important because it represents Billy’s first hint that there could be a discrepancy between
someone’s actions and intentions—in other words, that Claggart could treat him with “a
sweet voice” and still hate him. Billy’s baffled reaction to the Dansker’s world-weary
advice shows the depth of his innocence: whereas most people mistrust each other simply
out of habit, it seems almost impossible for Billy not to trust Claggart. Billy also shows
that even though he has the ability to perceive evil, he cannot conceive of the possibility
that someone could treat him kindly and wish him harm at the same time. In fact, the
narrator goes on to note that Billy becomes almost as troubled by the Dansker’s replies as
he is by the unexplained mystery of his trouble on the ship, indicating further that Billy
cannot delve beneath the surface to interpret meaning.
“For what can more partake of the mysterious than an antipathy spontaneous and
profound such as is evoked in certain exceptional mortals by the mere aspect of some other mortal, however harmless he may be, if not called forth by this very
This somewhat convoluted question from Chapter 11 represents Melville’s diagnosis of
Claggart’s evil, similar to his earlier description of the nature of Billy’s innocence.
Melville essentially argues that Claggart’s hatred of Billy stems from Billy’s very
“harmlessness.” In other words, Claggart’s “spontaneous and profound” hatred rises due
to Billy’s “mere aspect”—something in Billy’s nature, or his innocent face, but nothing to
do with any ill will on Billy’s part. The nature of evil is to destroy innocence, and, dimly
perceiving Billy to be somehow above the world of subterfuge and cruelty that he himself
inhabits, Claggart becomes consumed with the desire to corrupt and destroy Billy.
“With no power to annul the elemental evil in him, though readily enough he
could hide it; apprehending the good, but powerless to be it; a nature like
Claggart’s, surcharged with energy as such natures almost invariably are, what
recourse is left to it but to recoil upon itself and, like the scorpion for which the
Creator alone is responsible, act out to the end the part allotted it.”
This quote, from Chapter 12, further describes the nature of Claggart’s evil. Here,
Melville focuses on the innate quality of Claggart’s evil, a quality unusual among literary
portrayals of villains. Most villains appear evil either because of events that have
corrupted them or because of deliberate, avoidable choices they have made—evil
resulting from a painful background or from a conscious decision to betray good.
Claggart’s evil has no such antecedent. Claggart simply embodies evil. Melville makes
this fact clear in this description when he writes that Claggart can understand goodness,
but is “powerless” to embrace it, just as he has no power to overcome the “elemental
evil” that lies inside of him. Claggart has one option in life: to “act out to the end” the
part that he has been assigned, that of the devious villain. Yet, if Claggart is a prisoner of
his own evil, and has no choice but to act according to his evil nature, then the question
arises as to whether he bears responsibility for his actions.
“Struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angel must hang!” Vere speaks these words in Chapter 20, as he commits himself to pursuing the letter of
the law and seeking the death penalty for Billy despite his own feelings. Vere equates
Billy with an “angel of God,” but at the same time says that even if a real angel of God
had committed murder on his ship, the angel would have to hang. Vere’s duty is to
oversee the application of the written law, and the law prescribes hanging as a
punishment for murder, particularly when the murderous act could be attributed to a
conspiratorial plot of mutiny. In choosing to obey law over conscience, Vere commits
himself to society at the expense of own individuality. Before he dies, he appears to rue
this decision—his last words, “Billy Budd,” apparently indicate that he dies haunted by
his perceived betrayal of the young sailor whom he admired. Reminiscent of Kant’s
famous claim that justice must happen though the heavens fall, the quote simultaneously
connects Billy’s plight to the religious allegory of the novel and the question of justice. In
this quote, Billy almost recalls the devil himself. The Bible asserts that Lucifer originated
as an angel in heaven who fell from grace.
Bleak House: Charles Dickens
Important Chapter Summaries:
· In London, the Lord High Chancellor sits in Lincoln’s Inn Hall in the High Court of
· Several counsels and solicitors are looking through the paperwork of a court case
called Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which has gone on for generations.
· An old woman who appears to be crazy sits at the side of the room. She may be a
party in the lawsuit.
· The case is so old that no one really remembers what it is about anymore, and it has
corrupted countless people.
· Aman named Mr. Tangle knows more about the case than anyone else. The
chancellor determines to send two young people, a girl and a boy, to live with their
· The narrator points out the triviality and evil in the world of fashion, although there
are good people in it as well.
· Lady Dedlock has come home with her husband, Sir Leicester Dedlock. He loves
Lady Dedlock, but she is cold and distant.
· The Dedlocks’lawyer and legal advisor, Mr. Tulkinghorn, visits them and updates
them on the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case.
· Lady Dedlock asks him who copied the documents, claiming that she likes the
handwriting. Tulkinghorn says he’ll find out. Lady Dedlock feels ill and retreats to
her room. Chapter 8
· Skimpole discusses the irrationality of considering the bee a model of virtue. He
· Esther returns to her work and then joins Mr. Jarndyce in a room he calls the
Growlery, where he goes when he is in a bad mood or when the wind is blowing
from the east.
· He tells her the Chancery business with the Jarndyce case is about a will and costs.
The money the will has now been spent on the lawsuit. He says that there is some
property in London that is also part of the suit.
· He says that Tom Jarndyce, the man who shot himself, was his uncle. Bleak House
used to belong to Tom, who had called it the Peaks.
· Mr. Jarndyce tells Esther that he trusts her discretion and says he believes she is
clever. He then asks Esther’s advice for what Richard should do in the future.
· Esther answers all of Mr. Jarndyce’s letters for him, many of which are from people
asking him for money.
· One day, she visits with her five sons and brags about how the boys donate great
sums of their allowances to charity. The sullen boys say nothing. Mrs. Pardiggle
praises Mrs. Jellyby’s work withAfrica and says her boys have contributed to the
cause. She explains that her boys go everywhere with her.
· Mrs. Pardiggle says she loves hard work and never gets tired. She commences to
make her rounds, asking Esther andAda to go with her. Esther says she has
housework but Mrs. Pardiggle insists.
· On their way to a brickmaker’s house, the boys tell Esther how miserable they are
and tell her that their mother forces them to give away their money.
· When Mrs. Pardiggle finally leaves, Esther andAda stay behind to see if the baby is
sick. The nursing woman cries uncontrollably.Another woman enters, calling for
Jenny and approaches the crying woman. She too looks as though she has been
· Esther and Ada leave. Later that night, they return with Richard with some provisions
for the family. Jenny’s friend meets them at the door, terrified that her husband will
catch her away from home.Ada cries over the baby, they leave their provisions, and
then they depart.
· Mr. Snagsby is introduced—a Law-Stationer, who deals with legal documents at his
firm, Peffer and Snagsbywith. Peffer is never seen in court anymore and may be
· The Snagsbys live with a young woman named Guster, a charity case prone to
throwing hysterical fits. Mrs. Snagsby takes care of all aspects of the business, and
many men consider her to be the model wife.
· In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s home (Lincoln’s Inn), everything is locked up. He goes out and
walks to the Snagsby’s house, where he meets with Mr. Snagsby.
· He tells Snagsby that some of the Jarndyce and Jarndyce documents he copied lately
had very nice writing. He asks Snagsby who wrote them, and Snagsby answers that
they were written by a man named Nemo. He takes Mr. Tulkinghorn to Krook’s shop
where Nemo lives. · Tulkinghorn, however, doubles back and goes into the shop. Krook gives him a
candle and tells him where to find Nemo. Tulkinghorn knocks on the door, opens it,
and his candle goes out. The room smells terrible and is a mess.Aman is lying on
the bed. Tulkinghorn greets him loudly, but the man doesn’t wake up. He is dead.
· Krook joins Tulkinghorn in Nemo’s room, and they realize he is dead. Miss Flite, the
mad old woman who is also one of Krook’s lodgers, calls for a doctor, who confirms
that Nemo is dead of an overdose
· Snagsby arrives, but he knows nothing about Nemo. He sends for a policeman. He
says that Mrs. Snagsby had been the one to hire Nemo and that she had seen
something in his manner that suggested she should help him.
· In court the next day, the coroner asks questions of certain neighbors as part of the
investigation into Nemo’s death, but no one knows anything useful.A homeless
child named Jo takes the stand and says that Nemo had given him money and
lodging in the past.
· At home, Mr. Snagsby’s housekeeper, Guster, has several seizures from the upsets of
· Lady Dedlock and Sir Leicester are returning from Paris. Lady Dedlock couldn’t
wait to leave Paris because she was so bored, a common complaint.
· Mrs. Rouncewell introduces Rosa to Lady Dedlock, who thinks Rosa is beautiful and
strokes her cheek before going upstairs. Later, Lady Dedlock’s maid, a
Frenchwoman named Hortense, is bitterly jealous of Rosa.
· Lady Dedlock and Sir Leicester invite many people to Chesney Wold to spend a
week or two. The narrator describes Tulkinghorn as looking as though he has secrets
everywhere in his body.
· Mr. Tulkinghorn discusses the lawsuit concerning Mr. Boythorn with Sir Leicester.
Sir Leicester is unwilling to compromise in any way. Lady Dedlock asks Mr.
Tulkinghorn what he wanted to tell her, and he says it has to do with some
handwriting she had asked him about—when he went in search of the writer, he
found him dead.
· They discuss the man and the fact that no one knew anything about him. During this
conversation, Lady Dedlock and Mr. Tulkinghorn never look away from each other
but seem to take little note of each other in the days that follow.
· QUOTE - “They appear to take as little note of one another, as any two people,
enclosed within the same walls, could. But whether each evermore watches and
suspects the other, evermore mistrustful of some great reservation; whether each is
evermore prepared at all points for the other, and never to be taken unawares; what
each would give to know how much the other knows—all this is hidden, for the
time, in their own hearts.”
· Describes the uneasy relationship between Lady Dedlock and Mr. Tulkinghorn.
· The narrator lets us know that there is something going on when, in this quotation, he
describes the watchful tension between Tulkinghorn and Lady Dedlock.
· When the narrator refers to the questions that are “hidden . . . in their own hearts,” he reveals one of the most important motifs of the novel: secrets.
· Characters go to great lengths to keep their secrets hidden.As this quotation reveals,
Tulkinghorn and Lady Dedlock successfully disguise their watchfulness of each other as
indifference; the only reason we know they are watchful is that the narrator tells us.
· Simply observing their interactions doesn’t reveal much. This quotation is significant
because it alerts us that there is a lot going on beneath the surface of this genteel, rigidly
· Jo lives in a place called Tom-all-Alone’s, where houses collapse. Tom Jarndyce may
have once lived here, but Jo doesn’t know for sure.
· The narrator tries to imagine what it’s like to be Jo, not really belonging anywhere
and not knowing anything. Jo moves through the town, observing people and
animals trying to get enough money to go back to Tom-all-Alone’s.
· Mr. Tulkinghorn sits in his office doing work. On the street below, a woman walks
by. The narrator implies she is on some secret errand. Determinedly, she seeks out
Jo, who asks her for money. She ignores him and crosses the street, then beckons
him over. She asks if she has read about the dead lodger in the newspaper because of
the court case regarding him. She tries to get Jo to acknowledge that the dead man
looks like him. Jo asks if she knew the dead man, and she grows defensive.
· The woman asks Jo to show her all the places he knows of relating to the death,
including where the man was buried. He is to walk far ahead of her and not speak to
· Jo leads the woman to Cook’s Court, Krook’s shop, and the burial ground. She gives
him some a gold coin and hurries away
· The narrator tells us that Lady Dedlock goes to a dinner and several parties, while Sir
Leicester stays home. Mrs. Rouncewell, the housekeeper, observes that the footsteps
on the Ghost’s Walk are louder than they have ever been.
· Esther tells no one about Lady Dedlock. One day, Mr. Grubble, summons Esther.
When she arrives, she finds Richard there. He is on leave and has come to check up
on his interests in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit.
· The next day, Richard tells Esther more about his pursuit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
He says he and Mr. Jarndyce have parted ways and that the suit is his one goal now.
· Ada writes Richard a letter trying to dissuade him, but to no avail. Esther tries to
convince Mr. Skimpole not to support Richard’s goal, since it’s irresponsible, but
Mr. Skimpole says he can’t possibly be responsible.
· Later, when Richard goes off to meet someone, Mr. Skimpole says he is going to
meet Mr. Vholes, his legal advisor. Skimpole admits that Vholes paid him to be
introduced to Richard.
· Richard returns with Vholes and introduces him to everyone. Vholes says he does
everything for the sake of his three daughters and his aging father.
· He and Richard depart so that Richard can attend to the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case
the next day.Ada tells Esther that she’ll love Richard even if the lawsuit ruins him. Chapter 39
· Vholes wholeheartedly promotes the idea that the backbone of English law is that it
must make business for itself. Yet he convinces Richard that they will make progress
in the suit. Richard trusts him completely.
· Guppy and Weevle see Richard on the street, and Guppy observes that Richard is
now in debt because he wouldn’t stay away from the suit. He asks Weevle to tell him
if there’s any chance the letters didn’t burn and might be hidden in Krook’s shop.
· Grandfather Smallweed has been coming to the shop every day, searching through
Krook’s belongings, but he never finds anything of value.
· Guppy and Weevle go to the shop, chat briefly with Smallweed, then go upstairs to
Weevle’s old lodging. Tulkinghorn congratulates Guppy on being able to meet with
grand ladies. Guppy grows red and tells Tulkinghorn that he doesn’t have to explain
himself. Tulkinghorn leaves.
· Guppy admits to Weevle that he’s been in communication with a member of the
aristocracy, but that this must end and be forgotten.
· Mr. Tulkinghorn goes up to his room happy that he told the story. Lady Dedlock
appears. He tells her that he felt he had to let her know that he knew her secret, and
that only he knows it so far. She tells him that he was right, and that she knows what
will happen to Rosa if her secret is discovered.
· She tells him that her jewels and other valuables are all in their places. Tulkinghorn
doesn’t understand what she means, and Lady Dedlock declares that she is leaving
Chesney Wold immediately.
· He tells her that his only concern in all this is Sir Leicester and that her
disappearance will destroy him and make her secret immediately known to all.
· Tulkinghorn suggests that she stay and continue to hide her guilt. He says he will
alert her when he must make the secret known. She leaves his room.
· Tulkinghorn goes to Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London. Snagsby arrives at his office
with some information about Mademoiselle Hortense. He says his wife is very
jealous because Hortense has been hovering around his shop, determined that
someone should let her in to see Tulkinghorn.
· He goes to his chambers. Tulkinghorn unlocks a series of small chests and retrieves a
key, there is a knock at his door. It is Hortense. She angrily says that she has done
what Tulkinghorn wanted—she showed him her dress that Lady Dedlock wore, she
has met “that boy”—and Tulkinghorn says that he paid her.
· She says she hasn’t spent the money because she is so angry, and she throws it into a
corner. She says that she hates Lady Dedlock and asks Tulkinghorn to find her a new
job. She says she will keep coming to him until he gives her what she wants.
Tulkinghorn refuses. He says that if she harasses him, she will go to prison. She
Tom-all-Alone’s is dark and menacing. In a sort of surreal meditation, he says that Tom is asleep, but that a lot of fuss has been made about him in Parliament, where
people discuss how to get him off the street or what else to do with him. Tom gets
revenge by contaminating everything around him.
Woodcourt walks around Tom-all-Alone’s and sees a woman sitting on a stoop.
He sees a bruise on her forehead and bandages it, then asks if her husband is a
brickmaker because he believes brickmakers are violent. She says her husband
will be looking for her.
Woodcourt moves on and soon sees a wretched young boy running toward him,
whom he thinks he recognizes. Woodcourt grabs him, thinking he has stolen the
woman’s money. When the woman rushes up, she exclaims excitedly that she has
finally found Jo.
Jo admits that he once saw Woodcourt when he spoke about the dead lodger in
front of the coroner. Woodcourt asks the woman if Jo robbed her, and she says no;
rather, he has been very kind to her.
She says that a woman took Jo home with her to care of him when he was sick,
but that Jo ran away. She says that the woman then became sick herself and lost
When he recovers, he asks Jo why he left the house. Jo says he never knew a
woman had been caring for him and that he would never have done anything to
He says someone took him away, but he won’t name the man, fearful that he’ll
find out since he seems to be everywhere. Jo says this man gave him money and
told him to “move on.”
The case is about taking money from the people and ultimately destroying them
which is the purpose of the law
Lady Deadlock – Her name creates irony because the meaning of deadlock is
when the jury in the case cannot come to a decision, similar to the case she is
Snagsby- a law stationer; a decent person but is profit oriented
Dickens” is an old euphemism for “the devil.” (I’m not sure why this is
When we separate law from God, it simply becomes a social institution that can
The law is simply a system of rules, and can be used as a tool to change society.
Purpose of Bleak house is to give us a different perspective on the law.
The law is intricately connected to people’s lives and cannot be separated by the
people affected by it.
We must consider:
How law is depicted in bleak house
Way that ordinary people perceive the law
Comparisons: To Bartleby:
Both involve courts of chancery
Both depict ordinary lives that are disrupted by the law
Both end in homelessness and death
Bartleby is a story of classification
Both involve homelessness and death
Page 10: on such an afternoon if ever… where he can see nothing but fog:
working a legal case is for your own benefit
the fog comes from the lord chancellor (foreshadowing the rest of the story)
Page 11: “well may the court be dim…the attendant wigs are all stuck in a fog bank!”
Page 11: “This is the court of chancery… suffer any wrong that can be done you rather
then come here”
- people who have money can outlast who are in the wrong
The honest people in the courts tell people not o seek help from the courts
Page 558: “Richard” said I, “you paved great confidence in me, but I fear you will not
take advice from me?”
Bartleby: Herman Melville
The narrator of "Bartleby the Scrivener" is the Lawyer, who runs a law practice on Wall
Street in New York. The Lawyer begins by noting that he is an "elderly man," and that his
profession has brought him "into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an
interesting and somewhat singular set of men the law-copyists, or scriveners." While the
Lawyer knows many interesting stories of such scriveners, he bypasses them all in favor
of telling the story of Bartleby, whom he finds to be the most interesting of all the
scriveners. Bartleby is, according to the Lawyer, "one of those beings of whom nothing is
ascertainable, except from the original sources, and, in his case, those were very small."
Before introducing Bartleby, the Lawyer describes the other scriveners working in his
office at this time. The first is Turkey, a man who is about the same age as the Lawyer
(around sixty). Turkey has been causing problems lately. He is an excellent scrivener in
the morning, but as the day wears on—particularly in the afternoon—he becomes more
prone to making mistakes, dropping ink plots on the copies he writes. He also becomes
more flushed, with an ill temper, in the afternoon. The Lawyer tries to help both himself
and Turkey by asking Turkey only to work in the mornings, but Turkey argues with him,
so the Lawyer simply gives him less important documents in the afternoon. The second worker is Nippers, who is much younger and more ambitious than Turkey. At
twenty-five years old, he is a comical opposite to Turkey, because he has trouble working
in the morning. Until lunchtime, he suffers from stomach trouble, and constantly adjusts
the height of the legs on his desk, trying to get them perfectly balanced. In the afternoons,
he is calmer and works steadily.
The last employee—not a scrivener, but an errand-boy—is Ginger Nut. His nickname
comes from the fact tha