The Caine Mutiny: Novel Summary: III Captain Queeg
III Captain Queeg
11 Captain Queeg Relieves Captain de Vriess
Willie is in his cabin when Captain Queeg arrives. The men of the Caine aren't prepared for Queeg's arrival, so naturally the ship is a mess. Queeg doesn't seem dismayed by the slovenly state of he ship and its crew, and Captain de Vriess greets Queeg in a nonchalant manner.
In a private conversation in de Vriess' cabin, the two captains discuss the Caine's crew, the ship, and how to best handle the transfer of power. Queeg removes a pair of steel balls from his pocket and begins to roll them around in his left hand. Queeg asks to see the fitness reports, and he specifically asks whether there is something wrong with Willie. De Vriess notes that Willie needed to be shaken up, but that he believes he will eventually make a good officer. De Vriess is surprised that Queeg wants to assume command as quickly as possible, especially since Queeg has no previous experience with a ship of the Caine's class.
Willie is called before de Vriess and Queeg and asked if he is prepared to complete the transfer report by the afternoon, and he affirms the request. Willie's first impression of Queeg is favorable.
The next morning the transfer ceremony takes place. Prior to his departure, de Vriess has a private conversation with Queeg in which he tells the new captain that the Caine is a rather battered ship and the men are reliable, but they need some leeway, room which he was willing to offer for their loyalty. As de Vriess prepares to disembark the Caine, he can't because Willie has sent the gig to another ship to trade movies. As a result, de Vriess must mull around some while he awaits the boat's return. Willie attempts to make small talk, asking de Vriess how it feels to be leaving the Caine. De Vriess notes that it's the happiest day of his life. The oldest crew chief approaches de Vriess and presents him with a watch from the crew. De Vriess notes that it's against Navy policy to accept such gifts, but as he departs the ship he takes it, adding that he will keep it running half an hour slow to remind him of the foul-ups aboard the Caine.
As soon as de Vriess is out of sight, Captain Queeg informs Willie that he is no longer in hack. Noting the improper uniform of one sailor, Queeg tells Willie to pass the word that proper attire shall be worn while in Pearl Harbor. Willie is pleased that the new captain wants to restore order to the ship. The captain also schedules a meeting of all officers, a meeting Willie won't be able to attend because he is the officer of the day and must remain on guard.
12 The New Order
Captain Queeg's meeting sets the tone for his command. He informs the officers that he wants everything to be done his way, and his way is by the book. As he speaks, he smokes and slowly rotates the steel balls in his hand. He expects excellent work to be the ship's standard. Following the brief meeting, Keefer inquires about going ashore, and Gorton, the Caine's Executive Officer, informs him that he can't go ashore because Queeg has changed guard duty procedures and Keefer has guard duty. Keefer attempts to argue with Gorton but isn't successful. A short time latter Keefer is called to the captain.
Queeg questions Keefer about Willie's abilities as a communications custodian. Keefer replies that Willie needs some training but that he does well enough. Queeg counters that he wants Keefer to relieve Willie of the position and to assume the position himself. Keefer balks, claiming that no other ship assigns a full lieutenant to a custodian's position and that he doesn't have the time to take on the duty. Queeg remarks that if he stopped writing his novel, he would have plenty of time and adds that once Willie is trained, he may again take over the duty, but until then Keefer is to assume the duty. Queeg also notes that he wants the men of the Caine to assume responsibility for their own communications, instead of receiving them from another ship and that he wants full-time guard on the radio. Queeg ends the discussion by inviting Keefer ashore with him to have a few drinks; Keefer comments that he can't come because of the changes in guard duty.
Later in the evening Willie seeks out Keefer to inform him that he has been studying the communications manual and to request permission to visit Keggs on the Moulton. Willie finds Keggs asleep in his cabin, studying an engineering manual. Willie suggests that they play a game of chess; Keggs agrees, and they share two cokes with their game. Keggs cautions that when his captain returns to the ship, the game is immediately over. When Keggs asks how he likes the Caine's new captain, Willie replies that he seems like a decent human being. To the men's dismay, both Queeg and Sammis, Keggs' captain, walk in on their game. Queeg comments that he's glad he has a chess player on his ship, for he's always wanted to learn the game; Sammis replies that it's a great game if you have the time-and apparently Keggs has the time.
Back on the Caine, Maryk and Keefer discuss the new captain. Maryk suggests that de Vriess wasn't really a bad officer, and Keefer notes that Queeg's by-the-book approach may work during time of war, but that he still resents being treated in such a moronic manner. Keefer is called to Gorton's cabin, and Gorton dresses him down for not being at his post when the captain returned from the Moulton. He also yells at him for letting Willie go aboard the Moulton. As the pair argue, the radioman enters with a priority message that needs to be decoded: the Caine is to steam to Pago Pago.
13 The Best Goddamned Target-towing ship in the Navy
Willie's new post is on the bridge. In the morning Queeg prepares to take the Caine to sea. The ship is moored in a narrow channel, and Queeg's commands cause the ship to damage some of the nearby vessels and to get stuck on a muddy bank. Executive officer Gorton notes that they will have to file a grounding report, but Queeg brushes off the suggestion, calling over a tug to free the ship. Queeg brings the ship in to the refueling station at a high rate of speed, but gives a last minute command that successfully berths the ship. A short time later Willie is given a message to decode from the central office which inquires why Queeg did not file a grounding report for the earlier incident. Queeg seems a bit disturbed, completes a report and has Willie deliver it by hand. On his way to the main office, Willie reads the report, which blames the accident on slow response to his command by the engine room. The report also notes that Queeg recently took over the ship and that her crew is in dire need of rigid training.
To celebrate their leaving Pearl harbor, the Caine's officers have a party at the officer's club; Queeg joins them for a time, regaling them with tales of his adventures at sea. Willie's sense that Queeg is a better captain than de Vriess deepens. Early in the morning, Willie is awakened with a message to decode; the message states that the Caine's orders have been changed; the Moulton will go to Pago Pago and the Caine will remain in Pearl Harbor on target-towing duty. When Willie delivers the message to the captain, Queeg displays no negative emotion; however, Queeg later calls Gorton to his cabin to ask what Gorton makes of the change. Queeg seems anxious about the change of orders and sends Gorton to the main office with orders to find out why the change was made.
The next morning Gorton goes to the Commander, Service Squadron Pacific office. Gorton asks a captain at the office about the change, and the captain becomes enraged that any captain would send a subordinate to inquire about a change in orders. Gorton is commanded to return to the Caine and instruct Queeg that if he wants any answers he should come in person. When Gorton returns to the ship, he is told to immediately see Queeg. Queeg asks if Gorton has learned why the orders were changed, and Gorton informs him that he was practically thrown out of the commander's office. Queeg notes that Gorton should have snooped around some, but Gorton seems repulsed at the suggestion. During the discussion, a sailor brings a dispatch for the captain. Queeg notes the sailor's slovenly dress and informs Gorton that from now on all of the men will tuck in their shirts or face disciplinary action. He also calls an officer's meeting for later in the day.
During the officer's meeting, Queeg rolls the steel balls and informs the officers that he is displeased. Queeg speculates on the reason the orders were changed and concludes that it is because the commander feels the ship wasn't up to the duty. Queeg notes that he recently informed the commander that the engineering performance was sub par, but he insists that the issue couldn't have been his fault. Queeg states that from now on there will be no mistakes; they will run the best target-towing ship in the Navy. Willie is assigned duty as the ship's morale officer, with his first duty to see that each man tucks in his shirttail. Willie is shocked by the order.
Following the grounding incident, Queeg is a much more cautious commander. Willie writes a notice to the crew about their shirttails and morale, and to his surprise the men actually follow his notice. In reality the men simply don't want to be disciplined while the Caine is still operating out of Pearl Harbor.
One morning the ship is surrounded by a heavy fog. Queeg delays pulling out of the harbor for as long as he can but eventually brings the ship into the channel. There are some tense moments as fog horns sound all around them and the Caine narrowly misses hitting a tanker. Gorton is surprised when Queeg calls for a course to the targeting station but hasn't yet turned the ship around. Queeg gives orders to turn the ship and commands a gunner's mate to call out the compass directions every five degrees until they reach the heading of 220 degrees. At 220 degrees, Stilwell, the helmsman, calls out the heading and adds a "steadying up" command. Queeg is incensed by Stilwell's action, and he reprimands him. In the meantime the ship drifts past 220 degrees and must be corrected. Queeg asks Maryk for Stilwell's name and informs him that he wants Stilwell relieved and a more experienced man put at the helm. Maryk informs Queeg that Stilwell is the ship's best helmsman. As they argue, Willie spots a battleship straight ahead and by the time Queeg has given his orders the battleship barely misses the Caine. A lookout spots a red buoy, and Maryk informs Queeg that they are on the wrong side of the channel. Queeg exclaims that he is commanding the ship and will continue to do so. At that moment the Caine emerges from the fog and the ship continues to the target station. The crew remains puzzled at the captain's actions, particularly his order to relieve Stilwell. As Willie discusses the events with Harding, for the first time he senses that something may be wrong with Queeg, that perhaps he became frightened in the fog and lashed out at Stilwell out of fear.
When Stilwell's next watch arrives, no one is sure what to do. Eventually, Maryk confronts the captain, who brushes off the entire incident. On the last target run of the day, Willie is enjoying the watching the destroyers shell the target when he is called to the bridge. One of the sailors is standing next to the captain with his shirttail untucked. While Queeg dresses down Willie and Keefer, the ship receives an order to end the drills for the day and to return home. Queeg gives the order to turn the ship around and then returns his attention to the two officers, commanding both to submit written reports regarding the incident. Stilwell turns the ship about but never receives a command from Queeg to stop the turn; as a result, the Caine circles over the tow line. When Queeg finally returns his attention to the ship's course, he realizes that they have been steaming in a circle and commands Stilwell to stop the ship. Though one of the chiefs informs Queeg that the ship has cut her own tow line, Queeg refuses to believe it and steams the ship forward two miles. When it is apparent that the cable has been cut, Queeg blames the problem on a faulty cable and sends a message to headquarters to that effect. Maryk approaches the captain, suggesting that they lower a small boat to recover the target, but Queeg refuses.
In private, Maryk asks Keefer if it's possible that Queeg didn't know that they had steamed in circles and cut their own cable. Keefer says there's no way of knowing but that he believes the whole crew is in trouble with Queeg as captain. Maryk suggest to Gorton that he try to talk the captain into recovering the target, but Gorton refuses. Queeg reappears and Maryk tries to impress upon the captain the need to recover the target, asserting that it would take no more than an hour. Queeg questions several other officers about the possibility of recovering the target, contemplates his next move, then sends another message to headquarters suggesting that they might try to recover the target but will await instructions. The Caine steams around the target for an hour while awaiting a response. When the response is received, Queeg is simply told to act at his own discretion. Queeg decides to head back to port.
The next morning the Caine is not called to duty, but a messenger arrives with a private message from headquarters for the captain. Moments later, Gorton is called to the captain's cabin. Queeg shares the message with Gorton, which requires Queeg to submit a written report on yesterday's "fiasco." Queeg asks Gorton what he thinks the message means, stressing that he needs Gorton to tell him if there was any mistake he may have made. Gorton hesitates, and instead of offering the truth says that Queeg may have overestimated the difficulty of recovering the target, that he had once seen the operation performed in half an hour. Queeg becomes angry with Gorton, questioning why this information wasn't shared with him yesterday. Queeg then places the blame solely on Gorton.
14 Queeg on the Carpet
Willie asks Keefer how to write his report to Queeg, and Keefer offers to write it for him. Willie notes that he has been fretting over the report and Keefer comments that this is the whole point of the report, to make him sweat.
Queeg confronts Captain Grace at the main office. Grace tells Queeg that his report on the target-towing incident is unsatisfactory because it doesn't tell him what he wants to know. Graces presses Queeg for the truth regarding the lost target, and Queeg again places the blame everywhere but on himself. When Grace notes that he has heard the Caine cut her own cable, Queeg acts insulted. He either doesn't know the truth or he blatantly lies about the incident. Grace comments that there may be a troublemaker on his ship and then asks if the Caine is ready for a combat mission. Queeg can't answer the question but notes that he is doing his best to get the crew in shape. Grace then questions whether Queeg is happy with his assignment and offers to have him transferred to a stateside job, arguing that this is Queeg's first ship and he is the oldest man in the squadron. Grace notes that though the Navy preaches that there is no room for error, he believes that it's okay to make a mistake once in awhile if it results in a lesson learned.
When Queeg returns to the Caine, he spots Stilwell reading a comic book while on duty. Queeg summons Harding and dresses him down for the sailor's improper action. Queeg removes Stilwell from his duty and restricts him to the ship for six months. He then summons Keefer and tells him that his report on the untucked shirttail is unsatisfactory, using the same words Captain Grace spoke to him earlier. Queeg notes that Keefer's report needs to be more like Willie's, which is excellent. Keefer returns to his bunk and bursts out laughing, knowing that he had written them both.
Captain Grace and the admiral discuss the recent mishaps involving the Caine and Queeg's fitness for duty. They note that Queeg has done nothing wrong officially and decide that the Caine should return to the mainland for refurbishing. The admiral comments that Queeg's next mistake can be someone else's problem.
15 Joys of the Homeward Voyage
Nearly all of the crew are in a good mood as they learn that the Caine will be returning to the mainland. Stilwell approaches Willie, as officer of morale, and asks if his restriction to the ship will prohibit him from getting leave to visit his family. Stilwell notes that he hasn't had a leave in two years, and he suspects that his wife is being unfaithful. Willie suggests that he should be able to get leave, but that he would have to look into it. Stilwell also asks Willie if it would be okay for him to write a letter home regarding his return. Willie hesitates to answer but tells Stilwell that he believes it would be fine. This makes Stilwell very happy.
In the wardroom the officers are all jovial; even Captain Queeg is making jokes. Queeg asks if any of the men have liquor rations left, and then suggests that they might want to let him use them. Regretfully, the men purchase liquor with their remaining ration cards and give it all to Queeg, who brings it aboard the ship and has a sailor construct a crate for its storage.
The next day, the Caine joins a convoy and puts to sea. Willie serves as the junior officer of the deck, and is assigned by Keefer to call out commands for the ship's evasive maneuvers. Queeg calls a drill, and when sailors appear at their posts without proper dress he is angry. He tells Keefer to announce that any man without a helmet or a life jacket will be docked one day of leave, and any sailor not wearing both will be docked three days of leave. Keefer protests that the punishment is too harsh, but Queeg chides him for offering his opinion. Following the announcement there is a flurry of activity as the men rush to put on any missing articles. Queeg observes the activity and becomes angered and has Keefer inform the master-at-arms to arrest any man who is seen putting on a helmet or life jacket. Queeg becomes enraged as the men continue to dress until all are in proper attire. He announces that they may have felt that they pulled a fast one on him, but since no men can be identified as the offenders the entire crew will be docked three days of leave.
Halfway to San Francisco, the Caine encounters rough seas. The high seas and extreme movements of the ship frighten Willie, yet he eventually realizes that the ship was built for such conditions. Stilwell asks Willie if he has spoken with the captain about his leave, but Willie replies that he hasn't yet had the chance. He promises that he will address the issue soon and tells Stilwell to come to his cabin later that day. When Willie confronts Queeg, Queeg informs him that Stilwell's restrictions will stand, even while the ship is in port. He suggests that Willie is being moved by his emotions and that the right thing to do is to be harder on the men, not easier. In the captain's cabin the closeness and the ship's motion are making Willie sick, but he continues his discussion. Willie notes the captain's crate and suggests that Stilwell's offense was no different than bringing whiskey aboard a ship, but Queeg is unfazed and replies that rank has its privileges. At this point, Willie vomits on the captain's floor. Later, when Willie breaks the news to Stilwell, Stilwell actually thanks him for his effort.
After an extended period of rough weather, the Caine finally arrives in San Francisco. Willie overhears Queeg instruct Gorton to fix a course to Oakland instead of to their berth. Gorton notes that there's a rough tide near the pier where they are to dock and suggests that they head for it now, while the tide is slack. Queeg lashes out and instructs Gorton to let him worry about the ship's landing. Queeg commands Willie to take the crate from his cabin and to load it into the boat. Queeg, Willie, and several sailors take the boat ashore. Willie marvels at the sharp dress of the sailors, noting that they are a far cry from the men who brought him aboard the Caine. He knows that they are only dressed this way because they want their leave and they fear Queeg. The men have trouble lifting the crate out of the boat, and the crate ends up falling into the water, where it immediately sinks to the bottom. The men attempt to recover it, but it is stuck fast in the mud. Willie suggests calling the harbor police to retrieve the crate, but Queeg replies that he has no desire to explain the crate's contents to the shore patrol. Queeg reprimands Willie for failing to adequately perform his duty as leader of the work party; he notes that Willie should be prepared to account for his failure to perform his duty. When Willie asks if he should write a report on the incident, Queeg tells him to simply think about it.
A large number of people are assembled on the pier when the Caine approaches. Because of the rapid tide, Queeg has trouble maneuvering the Caine into position. The first attempt fails. Willie and May spot each other and both are elated. On the second attempt, Queeg brings the ship in much faster and it crashes into the end of the wharf, scaring many of the spectators. Queeg blames the current and exclaims that they should have a tug available for docking. On the third attempt, one line is secured, but Queeg calls the wrong command and the ship swings precariously away from the pier. In the meantime, Willie hears the familiar shout of his mother. Queeg calls for a nearby tug, and the Caine is finally pushed into position, bringing both cheers and jeers from the crowd. Queeg immediately yells for Maryk, and commands him to announce that because of the crew's poor line handling, the entire crew will be docked two days of leave. When Maryk replies that the penalty is too harsh, Queeg lashes out that if Maryk doesn't immediately execute his order he will increase the penalty and apply it to officers as well.
Willie is one of the first to disembark, and he faces the fact that both his mother and his lover have come to meet him. He hugs his mother then introduces her to May Minotti.
De Vriess' conversation with Queeg about allowing the men of the Caine some leeway in exchange for their loyalty illustrates the different styles the commanders have; it also foreshadows the strict approach Queeg will take. Willie's initial belief that Queeg's strict adherence to Navy regulations will be healthy for the ship is a marker of his inexperience. The grounding incident and Queeg's response to it offer the first evidence of Queeg's failure to accept responsibility for his actions; they also reflect his tendency to bend the rules when it suits him. When Queeg sends Gorton to the main office to inquire why the Caine's orders were changed, he reveals his lack of self-confidence. The act is also the first revelation of a growing paranoia and may be viewed as evidence of his cowardice. Queeg's inadequate performance while maneuvering the ship from the dock in the fog is the first indication that he does not perform well under pressure. Maryk and Keefer's discussion concerning Queeg's inability to admit that they cut their own tow line lays the groundwork for Keefer's assertion that Queeg is insane. Queeg's insistence on checking with headquarters before deciding if the Caine should recover the detached target is further evidence of his inability to perform under pressure. Queeg's harsh penalties for minor offenses suggest that he attempts to lead by fear, yet the sharp dress of the men as the Caine arrives in San Francisco is evidence that Queeg is modifying the men's behavior. Willie's chagrin at finding both his mother and May at the dock reveals that he still has an adolescent approach to his personal relationships.