In spite of the innocence and simplicity that characterize Billy Budd, he is a complex character in terms of what he represents. His name suggests an almost childlike youthfulness: Although he is an adult, his name, William, is shortened into the child's nickname, Billy, and the Dansker refers to him as "Baby Budd" because he seems so young. His last name, Budd, suggests the immaturity of a flower that has not yet bloomed. And yet it is Billy's very immaturity that brings about his end.
Billy's innocence is the dominant aspect of his character. He is unable to distinguish between his friends and his enemies, or even to comprehend that he might have an enemy. Happy-go-lucky and popular with his fellow sailors, the handsome Billy is scrupulous about following orders and performing his duties correctly. Knowing nothing of his own heritage except that he was a foundling, Billy recalls "young Adam before the Fall": unburdened by a past, uncomplicated by civilization, meeting the world on his own terms, innocent of evil.
And yet this seemingly perfect human being is indeed flawed: Billy stutters when he becomes agitated. The narrator says that Billy's stutter is Satan's reminder that "I too have a hand here"; no one can escape his power. His innocence ironically comes to function as another flaw because he lacks "that intuitive knowledge of the bad which in natures not good or incompletely so foreruns experience." In Billy's encounter with...
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