Billy Budd was one of the last literary works written by Herman Melville. Melville was an "American novelist [and] a major literary figure whose exploration of psychological and metaphysical themes foreshadowed 20th century literary concerns," (Melville). He was born in New York City in 1819 and died in 1891. His many novels include Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life 1846, Omoo 1847, Mardi 1849, White Jacket 1850, his fifth and most noted book Moby Dick in 1851 and Pierre 1852. Melville struggled with his religious faith and his attempts to resolve this struggle reappears in varying forms in Moby Dick and Pierre and seems to culminate in Billy Budd. "He states this struggle in Pierre: 'Ah if man were wholly made in heaven, why catch we hell-glimpses? Why in the noblest marble pillar that stands beneath the all-comprising vault, ever should we decry the sinister vein?'" (Encyclopedia 231) Billy Budd which was never actually finished, was "written during Melville's retirement between 1885 and 1891," (Billy Budd, Sailor). This novella wasn't even published until 1924, after Melville's death (Bram and Dickey 168). As Hillway states "Much, perhaps far too much, has been said about Melville's use of symbolism," (20) and Billy Budd is overflowing with it. After comparing the Bible and Melville's Billy Budd there are distinct parallels between the two books. Billy Budd parallels to the Bible in their characters, symbolism and resolution of the struggle between good and evil.
The first parallel comes between two of the characters. Billy Budd compares to the Biblical Adam of Genesis in several ways. We first see this when master at arms John Claggart falsely accuses Billy to planning mutiny. Captain Edward Fairfax Vere compares Billy to a "young Adam before the fall." (Bloom 23; future references will be made to this work.) Adam was innocent in the eyes of God until he fell to the temptation of Satan to eat of the forbidden tree, therefore sinning.