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SUBJECTS — Literature/U.S. & Literary Devices: theme,
characterization & irony; World/Britain; Seafaring;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Justice; Leadership;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Fairness.
Age: 14+; MPAA Rating -- Not Rated; Drama; 1962; 119 minutes; Black and White.
Both Herman Melville and Henry David Thoreau are essential to the study of American literature. Looking at Melville's Billy Budd in relation to Thoreau's essay, Resistance to Civil Government, will help students make connections between various parts of the American literature curriculum and enhance their appreciation for both works. Each member of the court martial jury, as well as Captain Vere, had the opportunity to do justice by following conscience rather than strictly following the Articles of War. Yet no one took that path. This Learning Guide suggests that the lesson culminate in an essay assignment requiring students to demonstrate an understanding of the concept of civil disobedience described in Thoreau's essay and the conflict between law and justice explored in Billy Budd.
This Guide also points out how the black and white color contributes to the artistry of the film. It contains a Movie Questionnaire to keep students on task as they watch the movie, a transcript of parts of the court martial, additional discussion questions, additional assignments and a comparison of the film and the novella.
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For social studies classes: Billy Budd provides an accurate and vivid account of the impressment of seamen by the Royal Navy, life on warships at the end of the 18th century, and tensions in British society caused by the revolutionary spirit of the age. Situations in which the law conflicts with justice and when the obligations of duty conflict with a citizen's personal moral code are important issues for civics classes.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To demonstrate how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to improve lesson plans, we have set out below a paragraph from the Learning Guide to Billy Budd.
For classes in English Language Arts, Billy Budd is an excellent tool to access Herman Melville's novella. The book, numbering fewer than 100 pages, is dense and difficult for modern readers. Still, it is well worth the struggle necessary to navigate complicated sentences and to process obsolete and esoteric vocabulary. The themes are as important today as ever they were; the characters are clear and extant in modern society.
The Learning Guide to the film Billy Budd contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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