The novel, Billy Budd was Melville's first work of fiction after thirty years publishing poetry. He wrote it in 1888, but he died with it unfinished. Melville's biographer found it in a trunk of the writer's papers in his granddaughter's New Jersey home in 1919. It was finally published in 1924, having been edited by his widow. The story is about a British Naval officer as he is pressed into service on the HMS Bellipotent. Melville's character embodies youthful innocence, openness, and natural charisma. He is adored by the crew. The plot reaches a turning point when a jealous crewmate falsely accuses Billy Bud of a conspiracy to mutiny. The novel is often interpreted as a classic battle between good and evil. It is often assigned for reading by high school language arts teachers. Read it before or after Melville's epic, Moby Dick; or, The Whale?
[Image is from the 1962 movie starring Terence Stamp.]