Herman Melville, in the last years of his life, wrote a sad tale about the Handsome Sailor
. Published posthumously in 1924, it also inspired a movie
(directed by Peter Ustinov), as well as an opera by Benjamin Britten
And it's full of tropes.
- A Father to His Men: Vere.
- Angrish: Budd is very prone to stammer under stress, and that is why he cannot defend himself in front of Captain Vere and resort to violence.
- The Bad Guy Wins: It costs him his own life.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Billy
- Beware the Nice Ones: Claggart apparently doesn't know this rule.
- Bishōnen: Billy.
- The Captain: Vere.
- Card-Carrying Villain: It's enough to see Claggart to know he's The Epic Bad Guy.
- The Chessmaster: Claggart.
- Crucified Hero Shot: Billy's hanging is pretty much described like an ascending to Heaven.
- Downer Ending
- Driven by Envy
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Claggart is descibed "His brow was of the sort phrenologically associated with more than average intellect; silken jet curls partly clustering over it, making a foil to the pallor below, a pallor tinged with a faint shade of amber akin to the hue of time-tinted marbles of old. This complexion, singularly contrasting with the red or deeply bronzed visages of the sailors, and in part the result of his official seclusion from the sunlight, tho' it was not exactly displeasing, nevertheless seemed to hint of something defective or abnormal in the constitution and blood." And he also has violet eyes. Super evil.
- Eldritch Abomination: "Meanwhile the accuser's eyes removing not as yet from the blue dilated ones, underwent a phenomenal change, their wonted rich violet color blurring into a muddy purple. Those lights of human intelligence losing human expression, gelidly protruding like the alien eyes of certain uncatalogued creatures of the deep. The first mesmeric glance was one of serpent fascination; the last was as the hungry lurch of the torpedo-fish."
Wonder why poor Billy couldn't speak under this glance...
- Emotions vs. Stoicism: Vere and the court-martial.
- Fatal Flaw: Billy's stammer.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Claggart
- Hello, Sailor! - um, have I mentioned it's placed on a man-of-war filled with sailors? And that our title character is angelically handsome?
- He's Dead, Jim: Vere calls the surgeon after Claggart bites the dust, and the surgeon states that he was Killed Off for Real.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Keep saying that to yourself, Captain.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Actually, I just hit Claggart in the face. And it turned out to be lethal.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Billy is tempted several times, but he's hopeless to corrupt. So Claggart has to come up with the whole accusation thing. But even after the murder Billy is STILL innocent.
- Karmic Death: Claggart. Vere declares: "It is the divine judgement on Ananias!" and "Struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angel must hang!"
- Kill 'em All
- Officer and a Gentleman: Vere.
- Passion Play: Sort of.
- Poor Communication Kills: When Billy cannot communicate with words, he communicates with lethal blows...
- Purple Prose I know it's a classic, but...
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Claggart is likened to a snake for a reason.
- Rule of Symbolism: It's filled with biblical, mythological and historical symbols.
- Satan - Claggart. It's made even clearer with a Milton quote in the chapter title "Pale Ire, Envy and Despair", which is what Satan felt when seeing Paradise.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Billy Budd, pure of singing voice and angelic of face, full of good will and eagerness to just be the best sailor he can be. He's morally incorruptible. The only "flaw" he has is his stammer, and this costs him his life, because the system he's entered is so vile and corrupt.
- Warrior Poet: Vere.
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men