Chapters 30-31 Summary

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Last Updated April 25, 2023.

A few weeks after Billy's execution, an official naval publication contains a description of the event. However, the report contains numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations, likely caused by the effects of rumor and distance.

The authorized account of the event significantly misrepresents the personalities of Claggart and Billy Budd. However, among the ordinary sailors, there is a distinct narrative circulating about the circumstances surrounding Billy's life and demise. Over time, this story has become more elaborate, and Billy is now revered as if he were a saint, or legend. The pieces of wood from the spar on which Billy was executed are even seen as sacred artifacts, similarly to how wood chips from Jesus' cross are revered.

Although many of the regular seamen who were not directly present or involved in the tragic events described in this account do not know all the details, they still have faith in Billy's fundamental goodness. They recall the "youthful and attractive appearance of the Sailor," an appearance that is now regarded as mysterious and holy. Billy is revered after his passing.

There is no question that the unusual and inexplicable occurrence of his body ascending upon his death had a major effect on the embellishment of the stories that are currently being shared.

Billy has an acquaintance who is also a foretopman from the same watch. This acquaintance has a talent for writing poetry and decides to create a poem in honor of Billy's heroic life. The purpose of the poem is to celebrate Billy and immortalize his tragic story. The poem becomes popular and eventually gets printed as a ballad with the title "Billy in the Darbies."

The poet in this ballad endeavors to narrate the tale through the perspective of a hero who possesses great spiritual bravery and tries to envisage the hero's contemplations as he faces his imminent execution.

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Chapters 28-29 Summary