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Billy, a foundling, has an openness and natural charisma that makes him popular with the crew. For unexplained reasons, he arouses the antagonism of the ship's Master-at-arms, John Claggart, who falsely accuses Billy of conspiracy to mutiny. When the Captain, the Hon. Edward Fairfax "Starry" Vere, is presented with Claggart's charges, he summons Claggart and Billy to his cabin for a private meeting.
Claggart makes his charges and Billy is unable to respond, due to a stutter which grows more severe with intense emotion. He strikes and accidentally kills Claggart.
About the Author
Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, writer of short stories, and poet from the American Renaissance period. The bulk of his writings was published between 1846 and 1857. Best known for his whaling novel Moby-Dick (1851), he is also legendary for having been forgotten during the last thirty years of his life. Melville's writing is characteristic for its allusivity. "In Melville's manipulation of his reading," scholar Stanley T. Williams wrote, "was a transforming power comparable to Shakespeare's."
Born in New York City, he was the third child of a merchant in French dry-goods, with Revolutionary War heroes for grandfathers. Not long after the death of his father in 1832, his schooling stopped abruptly. After having been a schoolteacher for a short time, he signed up for a merchant voyage to Liverpool in 1839. A year and a half into his first whaling voyage, in 1842 he jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands, where he lived among the natives for a month.
His first book, Typee (1846) became a huge bestseller which called for a sequel, Omoo (1847). The same year Melville married Elizabeth Knapp Shaw; their four children were all born between 1849 and 1855.
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