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also called Billy Budd, Sailor. Novel by Herman Melville, written in 1891 and left unfinished at his death. It was first published in 1924, and the definitive edition was issued in 1962. Provoked by a false charge, the sailor Billy Budd accidentally kills John Claggert, the satanic master-at-arms. In a time of threatened mutiny, he is hanged, and he goes willingly to his fate. Melville's story is particularly noted for its powerful symbolic characterizations--with, for example, Billy Budd as both innocent (Adam) and Christ figure--and for its sympathetic treatment of the ambivalence of Captain Vere toward Billy's death. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

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Herman Melville

The writing career of Herman Melville (1819 - 1891) peaked early, with his early novels, such as Typee becoming best sellers. By the mid-1850s his poularity declined sharply, and by the time he died he had been largely forgotten. Yet in time his novel Moby Dick came to be regarded as one of the finest works of American, and indeed world, literature, as was Billy Budd, which was not published until long after his death, in 1924.

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