Billy Budd Dictionary1
Vocabulary, Nautical Terms, and Allusions
aberration 1. A deviation from the proper or expected course. 2. A departure from the normal or typical events. 3. Psychology. A disorder or abnormal alteration in one's mental state. 4. a. A defect of focus, such as blurring in an image. b. An imperfect image caused by a physical defect in an optical element, as in a lens.
Abraham and Isaac When Abraham, one of the patriarchs of the Hebrew people, was ninety-nine years old, God made a covenant with him promising that his wife, Sarah, would bear a son despite her old age. Later, God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his long-promised son, Isaac. When Abraham demonstrated his willingness to fulfill God's request, the demand was withdrawn and a ram was provided as a substitute. Abraham's obedience renewed the covenant with God. Vere is here likened to the father driven by duty to a higher power to sacrifice his own son (see Genesis 22).
abrogate To abolish, do away with, or annul, especially by authority.
acerbic Sour or bitter, as in taste, character, or tone: "At times, the playwright allows an acerbic tone to pierce through otherwise arid or flowery prose" (Alvin Klein).
acquiesce To consent or comply passively or without protest. Usage Note: When acquiesce takes a preposition, it is usually used with "in" (acquiesced in the ruling), sometimes with to (acquiesced to her parents' wishes).
acquit 1. Law. To free or clear from a charge or accusation. 2. To release or discharge from a duty. 3. To conduct (oneself) in a specified manner.
Adam, Apple of Knowledge, Eden, The Fall of Man, Serpent In Genesis, we learn that "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (2:7). This first man, Adam, was placed in the Garden of Eden with only one stipulation: "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat." (2:17). As a companion for Adam, God then created Eve. The Serpent -- Satan in disguise -- convinces Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit, telling her "your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (3:5). She, in turn, convinces Adam to eat whereupon "the eyes of them both were opened" (3:7). God then cursed the Serpent "above every beast of the field" (3:14). As a punishment for their actions, Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden and entered into this life of suffering and hardship. Though several times in the novel Billy is linked to Adam and Claggart to the Serpent, Billy is not Adam returned; Claggart is not Satan incarnate. Melville employs the metaphors to evoke associations, not easy plug-in replacements. One of the primary challenges of the text is figuring out how to resolve the existence of men like Billy and Claggart in a world that seems unaccommodating.
1Adapted from Herman Melville's Billy Budd. University of Virginia. Accessed February 22, 2011. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/bb/bb_main.html. Courtesy David Padilla.