Billy Budd Chapter 22 Questions and Answers

Herman Melville

Chapter 22 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is significant about the time period when Billy’s fatal action occurs?

2. Why does Captain Vere decide to hold a drumhead court rather than wait and refer the case to the admiral?

3. Why does Vere have doubts about the suitability of the captain of the marines for serving on the drumhead court?

4. What explanation does Billy give for striking the fatal blow?

5. How does Vere behave while the court is deliberating?

6. Why does Vere intercede and declare himself a “coadjutor”?

7. Why are the officers told to act against Nature?

8. Why does Vere refuse to allow a verdict of guilty with a mitigated sentence?

9. Why are the officers persuaded to do as Vere wishes?

10. What is the outcome of the trial?

Answers
1. Since it “came on the heels” of the Great Mutinies, the law is very harsh, and the courts inclined to deal severely with infractions.

2. Captain Vere is concerned that a delay will create tension and dissent among the crew and might possibly arouse mutinous activities.

3. The captain of the marines is a soldier rather than a sailor, and he may not understand the traditions and ethos at sea.

4. Billy says that he couldn’t speak so the only way he could respond to Claggart’s false charges was to strike a blow.

5. Vere is visibly apprehensive, pacing to and fro.

6. He believes the officers are reluctant to act decisively.

7. Having taken an oath for their commissions, they owe allegiance to the King, not to Nature.

8. Maritime law does not take into account the motive of the perpetrator of a crime.

9. There are two reasons: loyalty to Vere, and also their concerns about how the verdict will appear to others.

10. Billy is found guilty and sentenced to hang from the yardarm.