The Caine Mutiny

by: Herman Wouk

Motifs

Awakenings

In his marriage proposal to May Wynn, Willie notes that the phenomenon that most defined his experience in the Navy constantly woken up from sleep. Indeed, almost every major event in the story begins with Willie being interrupted from rest. More abstractly, Willie is also awakened to an understanding of his father, his own subjectivity, and his only regret.

Meals

In the face of all the crazy things that happen aboard the Caine, one thing that stays consistent are the meals. In the middle of the ship's horrible rolling during the typhoon, Willie is comforted when he notices Whittaker and the rest of the kitchen staff bustling around the dining area trying to make sure that the afternoon meal will be ready. The mood of the crew at meals is always indicative of the condition of the ship in general. It is also at meals, while the officers are gathered, that Keefer's discontent with Queeg spreads to the other officers.

Renewal

On many different, the Caine is constantly being renewed. Whenever there is a moments' rest, the crew is at work scraping off the old paint and applying new coats. The destroyer-tender Pluto, the source of many elements of renewal, is revered around the Navy as precious. A spot at her side is regarded as the most desirable possible berthing. The crew itself is entirely transient, renewing itself constantly. At the end of the book, only two officers originally on board with Willie remain. Ensign Farrington, especially, gives Willie a sense of how the crew is constantly renewed, because young Farrington is almost an exact replica of what Willie was when he came aboard.