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An Examination of Melville's Use of Symbolism in Billy Budd.
The most striking feature of the collective body of critical response to Billy Budd is the sheer volume of differing interpretations of the piece's symbolism. Despite the profusion of differing opinions regarding Billy Budd, there are two main schools of thought that most scholarly responses tend to represent. The first group interprets the wealth of Biblical symbolism in the story as designating a parallel to the epic Christian battle between good and evil. The second group sees the piece as an examination of society which brings together embodiments of various political philosophies in Melville's final comment on the place of good and evil in modern civilization. In this paper, I will briefly outline both of these critical theories and the principal symbols that support each. 6 pgs. 17 f/c. 8b.