“Lines of Stones”: The Unpersonified Impersonal in Melville's <i>Billy Budd</i>

Sharon Cameron

in Impersonality

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780226091310
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226091334 | DOI:
“Lines of Stones”: The Unpersonified Impersonal in Melville's Billy Budd

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This chapter examines how character in Herman Melville's novel Billy Budd opens to what lies outside of it—an openness manifested by the fact that character does not seem to be an autonomous or independent entity (constituted by “something personal—confined to itself”), but characters, rather, share traits we might have thought exclusively the property of one or the other. The drama of violently different characters (or individuals) in Billy Budd has a counterstrain or undertow which threatens the representation of individuality. The Old Testament world anticipates and echoes the passionate realities of the novel—desire and jealousy, ambition, pitiless judgment, innocence, and power—but the violence of these relations is unredeemed and unexplained in both realms.

Keywords: character; Herman Melville; Billy Budd; individuality; desire; jealousy; ambition; power; innocence; judgment

Chapter.  10507 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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