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The Caine Mutiny

Herman Wouk

Chapters 19–21

Chapters 16–18

Chapters 22–24

Summary

Chapter 19

The Caine departs San Francisco minus twenty-five members of the crew, who elected to risk court martial rather than return for another tour with Captain Queeg. Willie has been promoted to Communications Officer, and Keefer has been moved to Gunnery Officer. Willie takes his first turn as Officer of the Deck with renewed spirit and conducts the watch flawlessly. Several sailors saw Willie with May on shore leave, and Willie relishes his reputation as the ship's ladies man. Two new ensigns join the Caine, Jorgensen and Ducely. Ducely is from a rich family and was not supposed to be assigned to a ship at sea. Willie begins training him in communications . Like Willie once thought, Ducely thinks he will be no good with communications. Also like Willie, Ducely sleeps in the clip shack.

Part of Willie's new job is opening and logging official mail. Willie discovers that the Caine will be sailing to the Kwajalein Atoll and helping to establish bases there. He reports this to Queeg, who asks him to keep it a secret. Willie revamps the entire mail department, reverting the logging system to the Navy standard method. Captain Queeg becomes increasingly reclusive and testy. He spends his time in his revamped cabin eating ice cream, napping, or staring at the ceiling. When he does come out, he aggressively disciplines the crew. One day, he finds a cigarette butt on the deck and demands that the deck be spotlessly clean at all times. The next morning he finds another butt and cancels all liberties for the crew. The crew responds to Queeg's demands by creating a "circle of compliance" for the captain to exist within. They keep the areas that Queeg frequently visits completely clean, and maintain perfect discipline and appearance when he is out of his room. Outside the circle, the Caine is just as bad, if not worse, than it had been under De Vriess.

Chapter 20

The crew knows from the navigation crew that they are close to the Marshall islands, and the mood becomes grim. Willie is excited to finally be part of the war. At 3:30, he is awakened by the alarm calling for general stations and takes over the watch from Harding. Willie sees flashes on the beech and hears the dull thuds of explosions. The Caine is to help a group of landing vehicles navigate to the beach. Queeg emerges from his cabin and walks into the bridge, hunching as if to avoid stray bullets. He orders Willie to make his way towards their attack group and then deserts the bridge.

They come up on the attack boats, and Maryk has to take command because Queeg does not return to the bridge in time. Maryk commands the boat to stop in order to avoid ramming other ships. Queeg finds out and gives Maryk the conn for the duration of the operation. Then he disappears again. Maryk pilots the ship toward the beach ahead of the amphibious craft. Queeg returns to the bridge and sees signal flashes from the boats asking them to slow down. Queeg denies the request, leaving the boats sloshing in his wake. The navigator calls their distance at fifteen hundred yards to the departure point. Ruffled, Queeg exclaims, "You're crazy," declares that the navigator had read their position incorrectly.

The talk in the wardroom is harshly critical of Queeg. Keefer thinks that the captain purposely misread the alidade so they would not have to go any closer to shore. He points out that the cowardly Queeg crouched behind bulkheads at all times would not go on the shore side of the ship. Maryk, as executive officer, does his best silence the disloyal talk, but is overwhelmed by Keefer. Keefer asks Willie to confirm that Queeg had avoided the shore side of the ship at all times. Willie realizes that this is true, but does not commit to Keefer's side.

Chapter 21

The next day, Willie sees the shelling of the atoll's major stronghold, Roi- Namur, by the Northern Attack Force. He is mesmerized. Through binoculars, he watches marines swarming the beach beech; some disappear. He manages to listen to a man die on the ship's short wave radio. As he pours chocolate over his ice cream, Willie feels the weighty contrast between the comfort of the ship and the hell on the beach. Keefer says, "War is a business in which a lot of people watch a few people get killed and are damn glad it wasn't them."

Later, Willie breaks a message that says the Caine will accompany a convoy of troop transports to Funafutti. Queeg responds noncommittally. He watches Willie break another message. Queeg is disappointed when the orders are for Lieutenant Rabbitt, not himself. Rabbitt is assigned to a new destroyer being built in San Francisco and is ordered there immediately. Queeg decides not to tell Rabbitt about the orders until a proper replacement is trained. This saddens Willie, because Rabbitt has become a friend. The next day, the commanding officer of the Oaks, Captain Frazer, pays Queeg a visit. Willie witnesses Oaks requesting Rabbitt's release. Queeg initially denies the request, saying there is no replacement for Rabbitt. This is a lie, for Harding is trained sufficiently. Queeg finally agrees to release Rabbitt as soon as possible. Rabbitt finally departs. The sailors envy the Lieutenant's early escape from the Caine and from Queeg. An hour after Rabbitt leaves, Queeg throws a horrible tantrum and bans the entire crew from using water for forty-eight hours.

Analysis

Willie's reaction to his first taste of war is immature. He has not yet been seasoned by the images of death and the sight of destruction that the older crew of the Caine know well. He becomes reverent of the Navy and its power. He is impressed by the maneuvers of the convoy and the power that it has. He watches the destruction of the Kwajalein as if it were an action movie on television. Willie's revelation while eating the ice cream has less to do with his disgust at the luxury he enjoys than with envy of the marines being blown up. He wants to eat the K-rations and be on the beach fighting, not on a ship completely out of harm's way, enjoying a sundae. Willie is disappointed to find that the shelling sounds like the thumping of mattresses being cleaned on the deck. He does not really understand the ship's proximity to death. He goes about his duty briskly and alertly, eager to do all he can for the war effort. His is the attitude of an inexperienced soldier.

Captain Queeg's does not fulfill the ship's duty to protect the amphibious landing craft. Queeg is a coward, as Keefer observes. Queeg avoids even coming near the side of the ship closest to the line of fire from the shore. However, Keefer's comments are accurate without doing any good. By the Kwajalein battle, everyone on the ship is aware that they have a bum captain. Keefer's constant complaining just makes things worse. He is the leader of one of three factions on the ship. The first faction includes the captain, the second consists solely of Maryk, who is the lone intermediary between captain and crew, and the third consists of everyone else. Though Maryk does his best to keep the disgruntled crew quiet, Keefer leads fosters the spread of disloyalty. The two new ensigns are immediately sucked in to Keefer's side. Willie avoids Keefer's trap and does not condemn the captain by confirming his cowardice. When Harding asks Willie's opinion on the captain, Willie responds by saying that though he is bad, they have to get used to him. Willie is less concerned with slandering the captain then he is with making sure the ship successfully navigates the war. Though laying the blame on Queeg is attractive, Willie and Maryk are the only ones who realize that the captain is still a necessary part of their functioning.

Having Captain Frazer on board is an interesting foil to Queeg. Queeg is uncomfortable in the presence of someone he cannot order around. He never looks Frazier in the eyes, instead focusing blankly on the wall behind him and constantly rolling the two steel balls in his hand. Frazier is initially confused by Queeg's description of the high level of training on their ship but soon sees through it, realizing that the only reason Queeg holds on to Rabbit is because he feels spiteful for not receiving the transfer himself.

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