The Caine Mutiny

by: Herman Wouk

Chapters 25–27

Summary Chapters 25–27

The next morning, Willie is refreshed by the sight of the sea, the vastness of which helps the young officer keep the smallness of his captain in perspective. Ducely is about to leave the Caine, and Willie wheedles information from him. Ducely admits to seeing the mess officers scraping the container clean. Willie promises that he will not reveal this until twenty minutes after Ducely's departure. Willie tells Maryk what happened, and Maryk tells Queeg, who insists on proceeding with the search. They must submit to a strip search. Queeg is thrilled with his work.

Queeg had offered Jellybelly his endorsement for a stateside yeoman's school if Jellybelly could produce information leading to the strawberry thief. Jellybelly confirms Ducely's story. Queeg promises to approve his application, then retires to his cabin and does not come out. Maryk calls on Queeg to ask about the search, and Queeg insists that it should continue. Maryk oversees the search without checking up on his officers' work. Later that night, Maryk shows Keefer his log on Queeg. The two men agree to go over to the office of the fifth fleet and turn in Queeg. Keefer is reluctant, but Maryk explains that he needs Keefer for his knowledge of psychiatry and his way with words.

Analysis

The inspiring story of Roland Keefer contrasts with the life of his brother, Tom Keefer of the Caine. Tom Keefer wishes to serve on a carrier like his brother does, but other than that, he shares little else in common with Roland. Roland is not book smart like Tom is, but Roland has a wealth of common sense and is attuned to the ways of the Navy. Tom is plagued by the ways of the Navy. He finds them ridiculous, suitable only for trained monkeys, and infinitely unworthy of someone of his intellect. Tom is an intellectual artist, with aspirations of becoming a great American novelist; Roland knows a lot about guns and aspires to a successful career in the Navy. Roland's death and the circumstances surrounding it shake Tom Keefer. Roland made the ultimate sacrifice for the Navy and died an honorable death for his country.

The loss of Roland hurts Willie, too. For the first time, he understands that war means death. Willie previously took comfort in statistics, figuring that his chances of dying in the beach assault were eight to one, but now statistics scare him. He realizes that of his acquaintances and friends in the war, one in eighty would die. He cries for his lost friend and his lost innocence once he stops thinking only of himself and starts considering the fates of others. This new, mature Willie is very different from the departing Ducely, who is almost an exact replica of the boy Willie was when he first arrived on the Caine. Ducely becomes everything that Willie could have been on the Caine had he made the wrong choices. If Willie had fallen back on his parents, he could likely have arranged for a transfer, just as Ducely does, but Willie chose to stick things out on the Caine. Ducely gave up trying in the communications department, but Willie never did. Ducely remained a plump and spoiled rich boy, but Willie became a tough, lean man. Standing on the deck of the Caine, Willie is disgusted by what he could have been and glad to see his former self go.

The strawberry debacle is finally severs Maryk's devotion to his captain. Finally by the end of the search for the missing key, Maryk is ready to take matters into his own hands, risking the blame that will inevitably fall on him to report Queeg to Naval authorities. His log of the captain's activities is even enough to convince Keefer to come along. Keefer is right about the captain's motives for the search. The failure to get a transfer of his own and the pain of watching Ducely and Rabbit get their transfers makes Queeg crazed, and the strawberry incident pushes him over the brink.