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The Caine Mutiny: Novel Summary: V The Mutiny

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V The Mutiny

19 The Circle of Compliance
The Caine departs and several days later arrives in the South Seas. Willie begins serving as Officer of the Deck (OOD). The mood on the Caine is somewhat lighter as the men joke with each other, and Willie has attained a reputation as a Don Juan for his relationship with May and other women. Willie attempts to train one of the new men, Ducely, but Ducely seems to be a hopeless case. Willie wonders if he seemed the same to the other men when he first boarded the Caine. Willie decodes a message that the Caine will be taking part in an attack on Kwajalein Atoll, held by the Japanese. Queeg informs him not to tell anyone else. As communications officer, Willie realizes that Keefer hadn't done a very good job with the position, so he sets about revamping the system for processing the ship's messages. Queeg's demeanor has changed. He spends most of his time in his cabin working puzzles and eating ice cream.
The Caine joins a large convoy heading toward Kwajalein Atoll. The ship moves in a protected part of the convoy, and though there may be danger about, Willie feels very safe.
The difference in Queeg's method of commanding the ship becomes apparent to the men of the Caine. Just before the ship left Pearl Harbor, Queeg noticed some cigarette butts on the deck and issued an order that the vessel be spotless at all times; otherwise, disciplinary action would result for all men. The crew notices that Queeg tends to restrict his movements aboard ship to a small area. Thus, they dutifully enforce any of his orders within this small area, a small "circle of compliance." Queeg also seems to have it out for Stilwell; as a result, the men either draw toward Stilwell in a show of support or shy away from him. The commanding crew now seems to be divided into three factions: Queeg, Maryk, and all of the other officers.
20 The Yellow Stain
Just prior to their arrival at Kwajalein Atoll, the Caine receives orders to escort a group of Marines to the beach in their landing craft. As the battle approaches, Queeg spends most of his time in his cabin, wearing his helmet and life jacket.
Willie's first taste of battle is somewhat disappointing. The convoy's battleships shell the small atoll from a distance, and all that Willie can see is the dull flashes of the gun and small explosions on shore. However, as the convoy gets closer the evidence of the mechanics of war become more real. When Queeg appears on the bridge he seems anxious and is again dressed in full battle gear. Queeg tells Willie to direct the ship's movements as the group they are to escort approaches; Queeg then disappears. When the group of landing craft arrives, Willie isn't sure what to do so his seeks out Queeg, who laughingly tells him to do whatever he feels like doing. When Maryk enters the bridge he notices the Caine is about to run down the landing craft and orders all engines to stop. Queeg senses the change in speed and bounds onto the bridge asking who gave the order. Maryk explains the situation, and Queeg notes that they might as well "get it over with." Queeg tells Maryk to take over commanding the ship until they reach their point of separation with the landing party; he then disappears again. A short time later, the commander of the landing craft signals the Caine to slow down. Queeg reappears and wants to know what they want. When Willie informs him, Queeg responds that it's too bad if the landing party can't keep up; the Caine will continue and drop a dye marker at the designated spot. When Queeg glances at the beach, he panics and decides that the ship is too close, even though a seaman's bearing reports that they need to move further in. Queeg take this own reading and determines that they have arrived at the designated point. Despite protests from Maryk, Queeg orders a yellow dye marker dropped and has the Caine turn around, effectively leaving the landing party to fend for themselves.
Following the incident Keefer begins referring to Queeg as "Old Yellowstain." Maryk orders him to stop slandering Queeg, but Keefer refuses. Following the battle, Queeg's demeanor changes and he orders Maryk to make sure that one of the new officers completes his assignment for the day-despite that fact that they have been in active combat. Harding asks Willie if it's true that Queeg dodged his duties during the battle, but Willie can't definitely affirm this is the case.
21 Death and Ice Cream
The next day another attack takes place, this one to the north. Willie watches with great interest as the battleships' big guns fire and the Marines land. He also listens to the radio conversations of the men ashore; he is surprised by the angry, profanity-laced dialog. At lunch he has a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce and ponders the fact that he's enjoying such a dessert while not too far away men are dying. Keefer tells him such ironies are a simple fact of war.
Willie decodes a message which orders the Caine to head for the island of Funafuti. When Willie delivers the message to Queeg, another message is received, this time a personnel matter: Lieutenant Rabbitt has been reassigned to the Oaks, another minesweeper being readied for duty. Queeg orders Willie not to reveal the information to Rabbitt until Queeg says so, asserting that Rabbitt's replacement, Harding, isn't properly trained. A short time later, the new captain of the Oaks boards the Caine to have a look around since he has never commanded a minesweeper. He mentions to Queeg that one of his officers is Rabbitt and asks Queeg if he would release Rabbitt now so that Rabbitt could help to bring him up to speed. Queeg informs the other captain that while he'd like to relieve Rabbitt now, his replacement isn't quite ready. A verbal battle of wits takes place, with Queeg trying to keep Rabbitt and the other captain trying to get him released. In the end Queeg is trapped into relieving Rabbit that very day.
Queeg is angered by a report on the men's consumption of water and issues an order banning the use of any water for the next forty-eight hours.
22 The Water Famine
Queeg enforces the water restriction, even though the Caine must steam slowly through very hot and humid weather. After twenty-four hours Maryk approaches Queeg and asks him to lift the ban. Queeg, of course, refuses, noting that he would look weak if he backed down. The men in the engine room begin diverting water which the sailors gladly use. The officers, however, must suffer in silence. When Ducely tells Willie that he has had enough and is going to go to the engine room, Willie threatens to throw him overboard, and Ducely changes his mind. A short time later Queeg catches another new officer, Jorgensen, attempting to take a shower. Queeg is enraged and extends the water restriction another forty-eight hours for all officers.
The Caine reaches Funafuti Atoll and is secured alongside a destroyer tender, the Pluto. Willie boards the ship and discovers that the communications officer Acres, is one of the ensigns from midshipmen's school. Acres shows Willie around, and Willie is astounded by the soft life aboard the supply ship. Acres notes that he has married and has a two-month old daughter whom he has never seen. Acres notes that Willie will be promoted soon, and suggests that he purchase his new bars while he's aboard the Pluto. Willie does so and tries them on when he re-boards the Caine. The encounter with Acres and the thoughts of promotion make Willie forget that he was planning on confessing the water restricting episode to the Pluto's chaplain.
23 Court-martial of Stilwell
A message arrives from the Red Cross, evidently stating that Stilwell's mother was not ill. As a result, Queeg convenes a court-martial of Stilwell. Willie serves as the recorder, a kind of legal advisor, for Stilwell. Keefer, Harding, and Paynter serve as the court. Prior to the event, Queeg calls for Willie and informs him that he has been promoted to lieutenant junior grade. Queeg then tells Willie not to worry too much about the court-martial, as he has a written confession from Stilwell. Queeg wants to be sure Stilwell receives a bad-conduct discharge. Willie suggests that Stilwell might want to enter a not-guilty plea, but Queeg notes that the officers judging the case couldn't handle a not-guilty plea. Willie prepares for the case by studying Courts and Boards, the Navy's regulations for trials, noting that if Stilwell claims the confession was extracted under duress he might still enter a not guilty plea. Willie shares the information with Stilwell and tells him to also seek out the advice of some men aboard another ship.
The next morning Stilwell informs Willie that he will enter a not guilty plea. Willie tells Queeg, and Queeg seems even more intent on getting the bad-conduct discharge. Queeg conferences with Stilwell in private and extracts another signed document from him, attesting to the fact that his confession was not obtained under duress.
Prior to the trial, Keefer, Maryk, Harding, and Willie take some time to relax on the beach. As they talk, the discussion turns to Queeg, with Keefer asking Maryk if he ever considered that Queeg might be insane. Maryk attempts to refute the notion.
Willie does his best to preside over the trial. Stilwell is convicted, but his punishment is a simple loss of six liberties, not the bad-conduct discharge Queeg wanted. When Queeg learns of the sentence, he calls a meeting of all officers and notes that he no longer believes the officers have any loyalty to him. As a result, he will now scrutinize their every move and will punish the most minor infractions.
Maryk has a private conversation with Keefer about Queeg. Maryk asks Keefer if he knows why Queeg has it out for Stilwell, and Keefer offers a damning psychological portrait of the captain. Maryk then tells Keefer the real reason:
Queeg continues to blame Stilwell for failing to warn him when the ship cut the target's towline. This, Queeg believes, was the beginning of all his troubles with headquarters. Keefer is stunned, but when Maryk asks if he'll go to the Pluto's medical officer with him, Keefer declines. Maryk tells Keefer that if he isn't prepared to confront the medical officer, he needs to stop questioning Queeg's sanity. When Keefer leaves, Maryk consults a Mental Disorders book he has obtained from the Pluto's medical officer.
24 Maryk's Secret Log
While the Caine steams around the South Seas serving a variety of duties, Maryk begins writing a secret record of Queeg's abnormal behavior: Queeg cuts off water, restricts movies, has men confined, and demands many reports. The crew is slowly being demoralized by Queeg.
The Caine is ordered to take part in another invasion. This time Willie is scared, though he isn't quite sure why. During the invasion it becomes obvious that Queeg always stays away from the beach-ward side of the bridge. While on the bridge, Willie spots a destroyer taking fire from a shore battery. Willie trains the Caine's guns on the battery and informs Queeg. However, Queeg orders the Caine further from the beach and refuses to fire a shot.
Maryk's journal writing slows down, but Willie becomes Queeg's new target. Many of the run-ins Willie has with the captain are the result of mistakes made by Ducely, but Willie never blames Ducely. The Caine's continual steaming begins to take its toll on the men, who start to develop some strange behaviors. Willie becomes obsessed with having a monogrammed coffee mug; he spends hours crafting his mug then becomes angered when others notice it and start to copy his idea. He obsessively rereads May's letters. He continues to send her letters, consciously avoiding the topic of marriage, and is delighted when he receives letters from her. Though he wants to break off the relationship, he finds himself ever more captivated by her.
25 A Medal for Roland Keefer
The Caine receives orders to steam to a new atoll. When they arrive the Caine resumes duty towing targets for the fleet, which is preparing for another major attack. Queeg has been almost reclusive and has nearly turned over command of the vessel to Maryk.
Roland Keefer is assigned to a nearby aircraft carrier, and he sends word that he wants to get together with Tom and Willie. Captain Queeg denies the request, noting that Tom hasn't turned in a report that's due. Tom and Willie rush to complete the report, and Queeg grants them leave. However, by this time the aircraft carriers are departing. As Roland's ship passes the Caine, he calls out to Tom and Willie, noting that they will be sure to get together next time.
Willie carefully follows the news of the battles and learns that Roland's ship, the Montauk, has been badly damaged. Tom seems quite calm and is certain that his brother pulled through just fine. When the Montauk returns to the atoll, she is badly damaged. Tom inquires about his brother and is told that a ship would come by later. An ensign from the Montauk informs Tom that his brother was killed in the battle but that he greatly helped to save the ship from further damage. Tom wishes that he had been able to get together with his brother before the battle.
Late one evening Queeg personally awakens Willie to decode a personnel dispatch. Ensign Ducely has been reassigned and is to be detached as soon as possible. Queeg is disheartened by the message, and as he leaves Willie mentions that Ducely's mother owns a shipyard.
26 A Gallon of Strawberries
The Caine anchors at a small island, and Willie, Keefer, Harding, and Paynter go out drinking. Willie improvises a tune, the Yellowstain Blues, and the officers take turns making up their own lyrics. Jorgensen runs into an old friend from a supply ship who arranges to give them a gallon of frozen strawberries.
The officers of the Caine are delighted with the strawberries, which they use as a topping for their ice cream. Very early the next morning, Queeg awakens all of the officers for a meeting. Queeg had called for a fifth bowl of ice cream and strawberries as a late-night snack and was informed by the cook that the strawberries had all been eaten. Queeg quizzes the officers as to how many helpings of ice cream and strawberries each consumed and notes that some of the strawberries should have been left over. He asserts that someone aboard ship stole the remaining strawberries and launches an official investigation into the matter, placing all of the officers on the investigation committee and expecting a report by morning. The officers half-heartedly investigate the alleged crime until morning and create a brief report for Queeg.
When Maryk delivers the report, Queeg rejects it, belittling him for his poor effort and noting that he will launch his own investigation. Queeg recounts to Maryk a similar incident earlier in his career where he was able to identify a thief and received high praise. He tells Maryk that he believes someone aboard the ship has a duplicate key to the storeroom and outlines an elaborate plan for catching the thief. He orders that all men submit a report stating their whereabouts during the previous evening. At that moment the Caine receives orders to escort the damaged Montauk and the Kalamazoo to Guam.
When Queeg receives the reports, he has Keefer announce that he has uncovered the culprit, though he really hasn't, and that things will go much easier for the criminal if he comes forward. On the way to make the announcement, Keefer runs into Willie, who shows him a very low barometer reading, even though it's a calm, sunny day. Keefer wonders whether a storm may be brewing.
No one comes forward, so Queeg redoubles his efforts, telling the officers that they are to collect every key on the ship and check it for a match with the storeroom lock. Maryk tells Queeg that he doesn't believe the plan will work; Queeg becomes enraged and proclaims that he'll personally conduct the search. When pressed, Queeg reveals that he believes Urban is the culprit. A short time later Maryk and Keefer debate Queeg's sanity. Keefer asks if Maryk is familiar with the Navy regulations regarding forcible removal of a commanding officer. That evening, in private, Maryk reviews the regulations.
27 The Search
As the Caine steams toward Guam, the weather becomes rough and Queeg's search takes place. Willie alone turns in around four hundred keys. As he stands on the bridge watching the rolling seas, Willie develops a slight sympathy for Queeg, whom he sees as a man stuck in a position that is beyond his ability.
When the ship arrives in Guam, Willie helps Ducely prepare to depart. Ducely tells Willie how glad he is to be getting off the ship and then mentions that he knows who ate the strawberries. When he won't reveal the culprit's identity, Willie threatens bodily harm and notes that he will inform that captain of Ducely's knowledge. Ducely says he will tell Willie who ate them only if Willie promises not to reveal the information to Queeg until he has departed the ship. He then tells Willie that he saw the mess boys eating the last of the strawberries and didn't report it to the captain out of fear of Queeg's wrath.
Queeg calls a meeting of all the officers to address the next step of the search. Willie tells Maryk that he needs to speak with him. Maryk is angered by the truth; however, when he attempts to tell Queeg, Queeg bushes him off, suggesting that Ducely or Willie could both be lying. A strip search of all men takes place on deck during foul weather. Queeg is happy with the search until yeoman Jellybelly comes to him and also admits that the mess boys took the strawberries. A short time later, Maryk goes to the captain's cabin to inquire about Queeg's absence. Queeg is lying on his bunk, rolling the steel balls; he seems to have been shattered by the revelation. He informs Maryk that he has a headache and tells him to take over the search.
When Maryk later returns to inform Queeg that the search was completed and no keys had been found, Queeg argues that of course no keys were found because the officers we all incompetent. In the meantime, chaos has broken out on the ship, with the men making fun of the entire enterprise.
Maryk goes to his room and records the events in his medical log. He calls for Keefer and gives him the log to read. Keefer reads the journal and notes that Maryk has done a solid job of documenting a case against Queeg. Maryk asks Keefer to accompany him ashore to turn in the medical log; unfortunately, at the same time the entire fleet receives orders to put to sea to avoid a typhoon which is approaching Guam.
28 A Visit to Halsey
The Caine weathers the storm but is battered. The ship receives orders to go to Ulithi Lagoon. When they arrive, Maryk informs Keefer that Admiral Halsey is on a battleship near them. The pair take a small boat to Halsey's ship, but as they walk the deck of the immense battleship, Keefer begins to second guess their actions. He informs Maryk that if Maryk wants to visit the admiral he'll have to do so alone. As a result, the pair return to the Caine.
29 The Typhoon
As the Caine sits in Ulithi Lagoon, among many of the larger ships, Willie recalls his earlier feelings about the Navy's fleet. While he once thought of the warships as nothing but oversized toys for nations to play with, his view has changed. He now understands the need for such power and the world-shaping impact such machines can have. Willie asks Maryk if he can begin plotting some of the Caine's navigational charts, and Maryk readily consents. Willie begins plotting the various storms in the region.
The next day the big ships depart Ulithi Lagoon. The Caine tags along to offer target practice and then returns to the lagoon, where they wait for several days. During this time Willie continues to update the typhoon chart. Eventually the Caine is instructed to accompany a group of tankers to refuel the departed fleet. As the ship steam toward the fleet, the weather worsens. Queeg calls Willie to the bridge and addresses the fact that Willie has been updating the typhoon chart without the captain's permission. Queeg also suggests that Willie may not have done a thorough job since they now find themselves in stormy weather. As Willie is in the process of rechecking all of the weather bulletins, the ship receives word that a weather disturbance is in their vicinity. When Willie reports the new dispatch to Queeg, Queeg suggests it's very convenient a new dispatch appears as soon as he sends Willie to recheck his work. Willie confronts the captain for suggesting that he might be lying, but Queeg tells him not to be so sensitive.
The weather continues to worsen until it is apparent that they are caught in a full-blown typhoon. Because it is preparing for a major battle, the fleet continues the refueling attempts, and the Caine has to remain in the area, even though it is taking quite a battering. There are some tense hours as the ship struggles to maintain an effective heading to ride out the storm. Queeg has a confrontation with Paynter, the chief engineer, and sends him to the engine room for the remainder of the storm. As Willie prepares for his next watch, Whittaker informs him that it may be too difficult to serve the officers breakfast. Willie is captivated by the notion that men can focus on such minor details in the heart of a storm.
30 The Mutiny
Along with the rest of the fleet, the Caine finds itself in the middle of a raging typhoon. The battle fleet is given orders to terminate refueling and to reorient to a new course. Queeg heads to the radar shack, and Maryk navigates the ship. Stilwell complains several times that the ship doesn't feel like the rudder is handling properly, and Maryk yells at him, fearing that his lack of confidence will affect the other men. The ship swings parallel to the waves, a dangerous position, and Maryk has a difficult time bringing her around. When the bow is finally pointing into the waves, Queeg reappears. Maryk suggests that they take on ballast to make the ship sit lower in the water and therefore easier to steer. Queeg refuses the request, implying that Maryk is letting his fear of the storm get the better of him. Maryk also suggests putting the ship's depth charges on safe, another request which the captain denies. Stilwell notes that he has already reset the depth charges under Keefer's standing order. Queeg becomes enraged and orders Maryk to replace Stilwell. Maryk notes that Stilwell is the most competent man to steer the ship, but Queeg rejects the notion and questions who is giving the orders on the bridge. The ship again becomes parallel to the waves, and Stilwell has a very difficult time trying to bring her around. Urban, also on the bridge, breaks down and cries out to God; Maryk chides him. Maryk calls out several commands, completely bypassing Queeg, and Queeg seems oblivious. Willie is sent to the radar shack to see if he can assess their position in the fleet and when he enters the shack he finds twenty frightened sailors, all eager to know how the captain is holding up. Willie lies and says that Queeg is doing a fine job. He then yells at the men for not monitoring the radar properly. However, it seems that in the inclement weather the radar is useless. On his way back to the bridge, Willie encounters several officers who ask him if he thinks they will make it through the storm; Willie tries to be upbeat.
On the bridge, Maryk again urges Queeg to add ballast to the ship's empty tanks. Again, Queeg refuses. The Caine pitches into a steep roll, and Maryk suggests altering the course so that the ship remains into the wind. Queeg flatly refuses, noting that the fleet course is to be maintained until they receive orders to do otherwise. Maryk exclaims that the ship is in peril, and Queeg argues that the fleet commander knows their position and will have them alter their course if he feels they are in danger. The Caine nearly rolls onto its side, and Maryk gives an order to change the engine speed, again bypassing Queeg. When the ship comes around into the wind, it stabilizes, and Maryk orders that they will maintain the new course. Queeg asserts that they will not establish a new course, and orders Stilwell to return to the former fleet heading. Maryk argues that they have lost sight of the fleet and that their antenna may be broken or communication with the fleet may be disrupted. Queeg again commands Stilwell to change to the former course. At this point, Maryk tells Willie to note the time and then he informs Queeg that he is being temporarily relieved from duty because he is "a sick man." There is some confusion as Queeg and Maryk argue, but Maryk establishes authority and takes command. Maryk orders that the new heading be maintained, calls all officers to the bridge, and sends Willie out to take a barometer reading. Willie encounters several other officers and informs them that Maryk has relieved Queeg of command. When all the officers are assembled on the bridge, Maryk informs them of the events and asserts that the responsibility is solely his. Queeg laughs and notes that all of the officers will be held responsible if command isn't immediately returned to him.
A large dark object appears on the sea in front of the Caine, and the ship's course is altered to avoid hitting it. The men watch in horror and amazement as it becomes clear that the object is an overturned destroyer. Someone claims to have seen a lifeboat with several men aboard, and Maryk orders the Caine to circle twice around the floundering ship. Queeg questions how Maryk can give such an order if the Caine is in such dire condition that the captain must be relieved of his duty, a comment which Maryk ignores. The Caine manages to rescue three men. Queeg begins to offer justifications for his actions, but the officers largely ignore him. Maryk permits Queeg to remain on the bridge, but Maryk is full in command. Willie feels somehow relieved. When Keefer relieves Willie, Keefer suggests that they have done the right thing, but Willie can only offer, "God help us all."
Queeg's insistence that the men not be informed of the upcoming battle and his isolation in this cabin hint at his growing anxiety over combat. The breakup of the crew into smaller factions reveals the deeper tensions Queeg's method of command is producing. The fact that Queeg wears his helmet and life jacket as the Kwajalein Atoll battle approaches is more evidence of his deepening anxiety. Willie's disappointment with his first taste of battle illustrates the sometimes antiseptic quality of war. The yellow dye incident is yet further indication of Queeg's growing anxiety and his fear of battle. Willie's reaction to the second battle shows that he understands the more grim reality of war; the fact that the men of the Caine eat ice cream when the landing Marines battle and die demonstrates the inevitable inequities of war. The fact that the water ban immediately follows Queeg's lost battle of wits over the release of Rabbitt demonstrates how he takes out his frustrations on the crew, and his refusal to lift the water ban out of fear that he will look weak shows a deep lack of self-confidence. The fact that the officers do not punish Stilwell with a bad-conduct discharge shows that they are prepared to buck Queeg's authority. Keefer's insistence on Queeg's insanity and subsequent refusal to visit the Pluto's medical officer shows him as a man who talks big but will not stand up to his claims. Queeg's continual movement from the beach-side of the ship during battle is further evidence of his anxiety, and the men's odd behaviors present evidence of their own reactions to stress. Roland's untimely death serves as a reminder of the unpredictability of combat, and his heroic action on the Montauk provides a counterpoint to the cowardly acts later seen in Queeg and his brother, Tom. The elaborate nature of Queeg's plan to discover who stole the strawberries is further evidence of his obsessive personality. The dropping barometer reading suggests that both a literal and a metaphorical storm is brewing on the Caine. Willie's sense of sympathy for Queeg reveals that he is maturing. Queeg's refusal to admit that the strawberries were eaten by the cooks and subsequent blaming of the officers' incompetence demonstrates his propensity to alter reality to suit his needs. Keefer's refusal to visit the admiral with Maryk foreshadows his refusal to support Maryk during the court-martial. Willie's changed view of the naval warships is further evidence of his maturation. Finally, the storm is a symbolic culmination of many events; it reflects the officers' reaction to both the immediate danger posed by the war and Queeg's stern style of command.


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