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Sexual Orientation

  • Date Submitted: 12/11/2010 10:09 AM
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English 2131

5 December 2009

The Recurring Theme of Male Sexual Orientation:

An Examination of Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville
During the late 1800s, homosexuality was not widely accepted. Men were identified as strong and worked hard for their families and if they identified themselves as homosexuals they “might risk falling into a camp of outsiders” (Phillips 2000). Women of that time were not considered “real citizens” and Herman Melville was a real man who needed to support his deeply indebted family after his father died (Merriman 2007) (Phillips 2000). Melville was born in 1819 and was raised in New York City (Merriman 2007). His inspirations for his many notable writings came from working first as a “cabin boy on the whaling ship Acushnet” and later many other merchant ships (Merriman 2007). Billy Budd, Sailor was written during Melville’s retirement (Merriman 2007). While Melville’s private life reveals “nothing so scandalous as an overtly homosexual liaison,” Billy Budd, Sailor is filled with innuendo and recurring themes of homosexuality (Norton 2000).
Herman Melville did not live his life without his own sexual orientation controversy. “When his son, Stanwix was born, Melville… accidentally identified his own mother as the mother of his son” (Norton 2000). His “wide-ranging sea adventures made him familiar with homosexuality at first hand…his Puritan upbringing may have dissuaded him from any actual involvement himself” (Norton 2000). He published his first book in 1849, Mardi, shortly after his wedding “which is a celebration of the intimate friendship of two men and equates marriage with suicide” (Norton 2000). He continued to work on merchant ships after he was married. It has been widely noted and “generally admitted that Melville thought his wife dull, and took every opportunity to leave home for the all-male company of bars, shipyards, and long sea voyages (Norton 2000). His last voyage out to sea was in 1843 and he dedicated...

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