Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Fiction - "The Caine Mutiny"

I just finished reading "The Caine Mutiny", by Herman Wouk. This book
was recomended to me by Jayne. She had read it long time ago and
liked, and thought I would like it too. Turns out that I did. You
maybe be familiar with the story, as it was made into a rather famous
movie with Humphrey Bogart in one of the main roles. I have seen
pieces of the movie, but I never sat down and watched it thorugh.

The book is a story of a ship in the US Navy during World War II. The
is named "Caine" and it is an old mine-sweeper/destroyer, which was
first commissioned during the first world war. The story is told from
the point of view of Willie Keith, a young, rich boy, who joins the
Navy to avoid the army. The first part of the book covers Willie's
"adventures" as a midshipman in New York City.

Once Willie graduates from the initial training he becomes an ensign
and is assigned to the Caine. The captain of the Caine, when Willie
joins is a man, named DeVries. Under DeVries the ship is chaotic and
falling apart with little discipline - at least that's how it appears
to Willie. In fact, when Willie first reports for duty, and he meets
the captain, the captain is standing in his cabin in the nude.

Anyway, DeVries is soon replaced by Captain Queeg, to Willie's
relief. Unfortunately the relief does not last long. Queeg turns out
to be much worse captain. He is petty about even smallest breaches of
Navy discipline as he himself sees it and is vey mean about enforcing
his way. He also appears to be a coward - he "earns" the nickname "Old
Yellowstain" among the officers in his wardroom.

The middle part of the book is taken up by the description of the war
time "adventures" of the Caine. They were mostly assigned to boring
escort duties, with little participation in combat operations. During
this time the tensions between the captain and the crew increased to
the point, when during a storm, there was a mutiny.

Up until now, the story has been presented from Willie Keith's point
of view, and the actions of the officers appear to be entirely
justified and even heroic. However, in the next several chapters that
cover the court martial of the mutiniers things become less clear.

I really liked the character of the defense lawyer: a jewish, naval
fighter pilot - who was only available to take the case, because he
was recovering from burns he received after a crash on a carrier. I
don't want to give up the ending here, but the insight of this
character into the whole situation changed my perception of the entire

The court scenes were perhaps the most suspensful parts of the book.

For the romantics the readers there is also a love story between
Willie and a girl he met in a night club, May Wynn. The thread of this
relationship is woven throughout the entire book, and nearly resolved
at end.

Jayne was right. I really liked this book. There were many parts that
were exceptional - there was the letter of a father to his son, there
were the court room scenes and there were descriptions of taifuns and
kamikaze attacks.

Now I'll have to get a copy of the movie and watch it.


Post a Comment

<< Home