The Caine Mutiny

Summary

Chapters 16–18

Summary Chapters 16–18

Unfortunately, Queeg makes it back to the ship before Stilwell does. Stilwell misses lineup, but sneaks aboard. Queeg asks Maryk where Stilwell was during lineup. Maryk breaks down and admits to giving Stilwell emergency leave. In the executive officer's cabin, Queeg explodes at Maryk for not consulting him. Maryk promises not to repeat the mistake. The captain accepts the apology and explains how much he needs Maryk in order to keep the ship running. In the next few days, the Caine is hastily put back together and on December 30, the ship leaves port. Willie moves into Adams's old room.

Analysis

When Willie began his relationship with May, he just wanted to have some fun with her. They developed feelings for each other, but Willie still wanted to leave May Wynn when he went out to sea. He finds he can't forget her, however, and derives one of his only pleasures aboard the Caine from her letters. Their letters are deep and passionate, their relationship seemed to be progressing. In port, the couple allows emotion and urgency get the better of their modesty, and they sleep together on their first night alone together in Yosemite. The next night, May Wynn turns Willie away from her bed with the pointed line, "I've done my share and a little more to welcome the boys home." She senses the truth, which is that sex did not mean much to Willie. When Willie proposes to her, he does it out of dutiful feelings. He does not want his selfish passion to hurt May. Willie does not completely recognize these motivations, but he begins to understand them when his mother talks to him. May Wynn understands his motivations instantly, and responds to his proposal with sarcasm.

May Wynn's dilemma becomes clear in these chapters. Previously, her character was only revealed through dialogue with Willie, but here, Wouk's omniscient narration focuses on her for the first time. When Willie retires to his room after their first night together, Wouk inserts a disturbing image of May huddled in the corner, shivering and crying. Later, when Willie proposes to May, we get a glimpse of May's inner dialogue for the first time. We see that May did not count on Willie's proposal, and surprises herself by her ability to turn him down. The relationship is just as complicated for her as it is for Willie. Mrs. Keith is not simply being nasty when she accuses May of sleeping with Willie in order to trap him. It is possible that May slept with Willie in the hope that it would lead to a proposal, and then lay crying in disgust and shame for stooping to such methods. Her surprising reaction to Willie's proposal could then be seen as an act of conscience.

While Willie is away in Yosemite, Wouk gives us Lieutenant Maryk's perspective for the first time. Maryk is a career naval officer, and has a very different viewpoint from Willie as a result. He cannot understand why Keefer finds his former profession, fishing, so appealing. He does not really understand Keefer's speech to the literature club, and thinks to himself that he will never be able to see Keefer in the same light again. Maryk seems to be in awe of the novelist's intelligence, and feels dumb and inconsequential in his presence. Still, Maryk shines in his own way. As we see in his handling of the Stilwell case, he is compassionate and brave. He does not shun responsibility, either, as evidenced by his unnecessary confession to Queeg.