The Caine Mutiny

by: Herman Wouk

Chapters 11–12

Summary Chapters 11–12

That night Queeg throws a massive going away party for the officers of the Caine. Another action item from ComServPac arrives, canceling the Caine's mission to Pago Pago and sending the Moulton in her place. Queeg is surprised. The next day he scolds them for not meeting his standards of performance. All is well until one morning a heavy bank of fog falls. Queeg attempts to get the Caine to its target towing duty despite terrible visibility. Stilwell assumes that the captain wants a straight course. Queeg explodes in anger and, while attempting to replace Stilwell, is nearly run over by a battleship. Later that afternoon, Queeg orders Stilwell to turn for home. Queeg then reprimands Urban for his shirttail loose shirttail and fails to give Stilwell the order to straighten up. The ship makes a giant circle, eventually crossing and cutting its own towing line. The ship completes a second full turn before Queeg returns his attention to commanding the ship. Discovering the cut towline, he is perplexed. No one is willing to give him an explanation. Queeg sends a dispatch attributing the loss to a defective towline and ignores his crew's wish to retrieve it, instead setting a course for port. The next day, Queeg is summoned for a personal interview with Captain Grace of ComServPac to explain the mishap.

Analysis

First impressions of Queeg are mixed. Some characters like him for what he is and some fear him for what he does. Willie immaturely hated De Vriess for bearing down on him and for his inability to keep the Caine up to Navy standards, and he immediately takes a liking to Queeg for his stubborn determination to do things by the book. Willie hopes for a Renaissance of Naval regulation aboard the Caine, not foreseeing the adverse effects of such a change. The other, more experienced, sailors of the Caine see Queeg as an invasive tyrant, robbing them of their former freedoms and destroying their individuality. Tom Keefer takes a particularly harsh view of the captain. After witnessing the target-towing incident, he comments to Maryk in passing, "We're in trouble with this joker, Steve. I'm not fooling."

Queeg is model for the way the Navy wants its officers to do things, but he invariably fails at his tasks anyway. Though De Vriess's ship flouted almost every Navy regulation, it performed its duties perfectly and with great efficiency. Moral on the ship was high and feelings were brotherly between crew, officers, and captain. Queeg does thing strictly by the book, focusing his attention on transforming the ship into a model of Naval perfection in appearance and form. However, he completely ignores the ship's purpose. A clear example of this is Queeg's failure to command the ship because he is too preoccupied with handing out punishments for Urban's shirttail violation. He cuts the towline and does not even realize it because he is so concerned with appearances.

Despite Queeg's high-and-mighty insistence on perfection and responsibility, he does not practice what he preaches. When Queeg mistakenly attempts to begin turning before he is clear of the Moulton's berth, and rips open her deckhouse, he laughs off the incident. He then tries to cover up the grounding. When ComServPac find out about it anyway, he blames the incident on the incompetence of his crew. Whereas Queeg forces his officers to be completely responsible for the mistakes of their departments, often punishing both the offender and the offender's superior, when he himself is forced to explain an incident, he lays the blame on the shoulders of his subordinates.