continue Pierrepointe movie
BB Annotation Check on WED. 24-30
HW JOURNAL ENTRY #4: BB Chapters 24-30 (+H);
AND, Review questions due FRIDAY.
THURSDAY and FRIDAY
Review end of book
JOURNAL #5: Respond to Franklin's essay"
Excerpt from H. Bruce Franklin’s Essay:
“Billy Budd and Capital Punishment: A Tale of Three Centuries”
Billy Budd is not, however, a mere treatise against capital punishment. Melville is using contemporaneous awareness about the issue to explore the larger ethical, philosophic, and political questions it so dramatically focuses. Undoubtedly New York Assemblyman Hitt was overstating the case when he claimed in early 1890, "at present there are only two classes of the community who yet favor capital punishment and these are clergymen and prosecuting attorneys."(60) Nevertheless, Melville could safely assume that almost all potential readers in 1891 would regard public execution and hanging as relics of a barbarous past, would be sensitized to the larger issues surrounding capital punishment, and would already either oppose the death penalty outright or consider it warranted only for first-degree murder and treason. Even the most ardent proponents of the death penalty in late nineteenth-century America would be embarrassed by positions such as these: "Vere justifiably condemns Billy to death" (Peter Shaw); Billy Budd is a "murderer and a cause of his own death" and Melville "is to be identified" with Captain Vere (Milton Stern); "the virtuous man, Captain Vere," must "punish the violence of absolute innocence"--that is, must kill Billy Budd--since "absolute, natural innocence" is "at war with the peace of the world and the true welfare of mankind" (Hannah Arendt).(61) Readers in 1891 would be far more likely to wonder, like the surgeon (235) and the narrator (236-37), whether Vere is insane.
Answer the following questions:
- Is there any evidence that Captain Vere is insane? How might this impact his decision to ask for Billy’s death?
- Is Melville a “murderer”? Why might people consider him thus?
- Is our new system of putting individuals to death (by lethal injection) humane? Are they still public spectacles?
- Recall that slavery is a hot topic back then? How does Melville weave his condemnation of it into his text?
- Consider the ending of the book, how might citizens back then respond compared to now? List all elements of the arguments.