For what can more partake of the mysterious than an antipathy spontaneous and profound such as is evoked in certain exceptional mortals by the mere aspect of some other mortal, however harmless he may be, if not called forth by this very harmlessness itself?

This somewhat convoluted question from Chapter 11 represents Melville’s diagnosis of Claggart’s evil, similar to his earlier description of the nature of Billy’s innocence. Melville essentially argues that Claggart’s hatred of Billy stems from Billy’s very “harmlessness.” In other words, Claggart’s “spontaneous and profound” hatred rises due to Billy’s “mere aspect”—something in Billy’s nature, or his innocent face, but nothing to do with any ill will on Billy’s part. The nature of evil is to destroy innocence, and, dimly perceiving Billy to be somehow above the world of subterfuge and cruelty that he himself inhabits, Claggart becomes consumed with the desire to corrupt and destroy Billy.