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Billy Budd, Sailor
Herman Melville

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ruminate To turn a matter over and over in the mind. To reflect on over and over again.


sagacious Having or showing keen discernment, sound judgment, and farsightedness.

Sailing Master The officer charged with navigation of the ship.

sailors, blue-jackets As opposed to marines, the terms used in reference to all experienced, skilled seaman. The term bluejacket (or blue-jacket) derived from the color of their uniform.

St. Louis, renamed the Atheiste, the Melville uses the name of this ship to characterize some Revolutionary attitudes in relation to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1790, the French Assembly seized the property of the Roman Catholic Church, which owned nearly a tenth of the country's land. Much of the property was sold to pay some of the country's huge debt. The Assembly then reorganized the Church, provided for popular election of priests and bishops, closed the Church's monasteries and convents, and extended complete religious tolerance to Protestants and Jews. But Melville's choice of names is perhaps even more significant that this allusion. Especially in the context of this novel, what does it mean for Captain Vere to die because of an action taken against a ship whose name denies the existence of God?

sally 1. A sudden rush forward; a leap. 2. An assault from a defensive position; a sortie. 3. A sudden emergence into action or expression; an outburst.

Saul and David Saul is the first king of Israel who, after disobeying God's will, is disowned in favor of young David, the hero who defeated the Philistine giant Goliath. A close friend of Saul's son, Jonathan, who "loved him with his own soul" (1 Samuel 18:1), David spent much time in court and grew in popularity with the people of Israel. This popularity and David's great beauty made Saul increasingly jealous to the extent that he tried repeatedly to kill David.

scorpion A  scorpion is a type of spider mentioned along with serpents in the Bible (Deuteronomy 8:15), which also uses the term for “wicked Person” (Ezekial 2:6; Luke 10:19) or type of scourge or whip (1 Kings 12:11).

scruple 1. As a noun, an uneasy feeling, arising from conscience or principle, that tends to hinder action. 2. As a verb, to hesitate as a result of conscience or principle: A man who could make so vile a pun would not scruple to pick a pocket.

self-abnegation The setting aside of self-interest for the sake of others or for a belief or principle.

sententious 1. Terse and energetic in expression; pithy. 2. a. Abounding in aphorisms. b. Given to aphoristic utterances. 3. a. Abounding in pompous moralizing. b. Given to pompous moralizing.
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