Authors often use different literary devices to grab the reader's attention, or to establish a basis for plot development later on in the novel. In Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Melville uses the literary device of foreshadowing to allow the audience to be aware of Billy's inevitable fate before the characters in the novel, thus creating a feeling of suspense within the novel. Melville begins using foreshadowing early in the novel when he describes Billy Budd as a tall handsome sailor that was well adored by mostly all who knew him.

Melville makes Billy seems flawless until he informs the audience using straight, matter of fact sentences that Billy has a speech impediment that only seems to rear its ugly head whenever Billy has something of importance to say. The fact that Billy's speech impediment only shows when he has something significant to say helps inform the audience that something of significant importance will happen later on in the novel As the novel progresses Melville begins to describe what was known as the Great Mutiny.

Although Melville's sentences are long and seem to continue on, he describes that although the Great Mutiny had seemed to die down, there were still trust issues amongst the ships within in the British Fleet and that loyalty had in a sense been voluntarily resumed within respected influential sections of the crew within the ships. Although the audience may not directly catch on to this imperative piece of information, it helps to show that a small mutiny would later occur within the novel.

We see this come true when Claggart accuses Billy of performing mutinous acts on board the ship As time progresses aboard the Bellipotent Billy witnesses a formal gangway punishment for the first time. As Billy witnesses the beating that results in bloody welts he swears to himself that he will never place himself in a situation in which he would have to be punished.