Billy Budd is the story of the titular seaman's trial and execution after he strikes and accidentally kills an officer aboard the HMS Bellipotent, a British warship. Captain Vere, his commanding officer, deliberates on points of law and martial discipline weighed against Budd's pure character. The conclusion of the novel offers varying perspectives on Budd's personality and reputation, showing an elegiac account by fellow seamen, a naval denouncement, and a report of Vere's death and apparent regret for his actions.

Summary of Billy Budd by Herman Melville

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Billy Budd Chapter Summaries (Free)

1SparkNotes

Review: The most popular website for book notes. SparkNotes was created by students for students, and their summaries are accessible and extremely well-written. Besides the usual plot overview, chapter summaries, and character analysis, SparkNotes differentiates itself with a section discussing themes, motifs, and symbols.

2BookRags

Review: Boasting the largest collection of book summaries, BookRags is the best option for titles you can't find elsewhere. They offer all of the basics (quotes, chapter summary, characters, historical context, literary criticism) but also walk through a few major topics that recur throughout the book, which can be particularly useful for writing essays.

3Cliffs Notes

Review: The original provider of professionally-written study guides, Cliffs Notes were available in print form before the Internet even existed. Their content is very comprehensive and includes an analysis of characters, detailed chapter by chapter summaries, critical essays, essay topics, and many other sections.

4Barron's Book Notes

Review: Barron's Book Notes is a trusted brand that excels in its literary analysis of elements like setting, themes, style, point of view, form, and structure, as well as its sample quizzes. They also have the requisite book summary and chapter breakdown. But beware the pop-up ads and outdated web design!

5GradeSaver

Review: You won't get any frills with GradeSaver -- just the content you expect. Their study guides include a full plot summary, themes and character analysis, study questions, and the e-text of the book. One hidden gem is their collection of literature essays, but you'll have to pay for it.

6Novel Guide

Review: This provider offers quality content and all of the sections you'd expect in a study guide, like quotes, chapter by chapter summary, theme analysis, author biography, and even metaphor analysis. However, the main downside is that the website is not well-formatted and the text can be difficult to read.

7JiffyNotes

Review: This is a good choice if you're looking for a quick read or refresher rather than an in-depth analysis. You'll get a short book summary and chapter breakdown, and while the colors are strange, at least the website loads quickly.