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In Herman Melvilles Billy Budd Sailor readers are introduced to the conflict of good and evil between Billy Budd and Claggart However there is another conflict which in ways is more significant than the epic clash of good and evil Veres struggle between duty and conscience is more significant because it occurs in the mind Whereas Billy Budd was clearly the noble sacrificed hero and Claggart was the vindictive villain duty is just as noble as conscience and conscience is just as noble as duty Melville sets up this conflict by placing a man with the intuition and innocence of a child in the hands of a captain amidst war In a description of Captain Vere it can be anticipated that Vere who values peace and common good would be in conflict with his job which requires him to be a militaristic authoritarian Captain Vere learns important lessons when innocent hands bring about destruction of life Vere was moved by his beckoning duty as captain to convince the drumhead court to convict Billy Budd However the paternal emotions towards Billy Budd and his rational thinking did invoke indecision Captain Vere realizes when he has to act he does not have the strength of conviction he had thought Veres character is written to be a medium between Billy Budd and Claggart Vere like Claggart has experience that makes him a salted sailor However like Billy Budd Vere has been able to hold on to his natural intelligence Along with his intelligence Vere has an innocent quality to him he believes when a crisis between duty and conscience calls he will be able to hold fast to duty as called for on the seas during war Captain Vere learns that in the face of conflict between duty and conscience he does not have the strength of conviction he thought he had Captain Vere learns that to balance conscience and duty is a very hard task even for
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