Mutiny on the Bounty Mutiny on the Bounty discussion


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IRP #2 Matt Lemanski

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Matt L. Part 1

Roger Byam is a teenager living in England in the year 1787. He has recently lost his father and lives with his mother in his family estate outside of London. Byam is part of a wealthy family and plans to attend Oxford, a family tradition, in the coming fall. He is fascinated by languages and is fluent in French, Latin, German, and Italian. One day, Byam receives a letter from Sir Joseph Banks, a highly respected English scientist and a friend of Byam’s late father. In the letter, Byam learns that an esteemed English sea captain, William Bligh, is in town and was planning to visit Byam and His mother.
As was the custom, Byam immediately invited Bligh to dine with him and his mother. Bligh explained over supper that he had been tasked with an incredible challenge by the British Admiralty. In order to feed the growing slave population in the West Indies, Bligh had been tasked to find a cheap source of food to feed them. To accomplish this, he had organized a voyage to the island of Tahiti to harvest breadfruit trees, which were the perfect solution to this problem.
Bligh also explained that there was another issue that he faced. The people of Tahiti had only ever seen one English ship, and the communication barrier had proved a great issue in trade. To solve this issue, Bligh had been tasked to develop a dictionary of the Tahitian language. He was admittedly incapable of this, and he was searching for a linguist to carry out the task. The purpose of Bligh’s visit to Byam and his mother was to ask if Byam would accompany him on his voyage. Byam had dreamed of sailing the seas for his entire life, and also was very excited to learn a new exotic language, so he readily agreed, following his mother’s consent.
The ship that Byam and Bligh will travel on is fitted in short order, and the HMS Bounty sails for Tahiti in November 1787. The bounty stops at several Islands on the way to Tahiti, and conditions on the ship began to fall apart. Tension rises among the crew. The crew is served the worst of the rotting food, while Bligh is accused of hoarding food for himself. Far from the gentleman that Byam first met, Bligh rapidly descends into a tyrannical
The ship makes calls on several islands during its journey to Tahiti, and, meanwhile, conditions aboard the ship begin to deteriorate. Food rots, the crew suspects Bligh of hoarding food for himself, and several men are accused of stealing. Discontent is mounting among the crew, but all seem to fizzle out once the men reach Tahiti. There is abundant fresh food, water, and women, and the men are free to do as they please. Byam works diligently on his dictionary. The men are halfway done with their voyage and they don’t want to leave.
The once-forgotten tensions begin to resurface, as Captain Bligh confiscates all of the gifts, trinkets, and fresh food that the crew of the bounty attempt to bring on board. Bligh takes the choicest food for himself and his loyal cronies and still feeds the rest of the crew rotting stores from England. It seems that it can’t get any worse, but it all comes to a head when Bligh accuses Fletcher Christian, Bligh’s second in command, of stealing food directly from Bligh. Bligh had been more abusive to Christian than to every other man on the ship. This accusation is completely false, but Christian took it very personally, and it insults Christian so badly that he refuses to speak to Bligh. Every man is faced with a choice: accept Bligh’s oppressive tyranny for the entire year-long voyage home, desert the ship and try their luck surviving native savages and the vicious south Pacific weather, or the third and most desperate option: mutiny.

Part 2

I really enjoyed this book, and it was very fun to read. The title, Mutiny on the Bounty does give away an inkling of what will happen in the book, but there are so many twists and turns to the plot of the book that it is a very intricate book to read, and I enjoy books like that. When you read it, it is always making you think, and there are so many plot twists, that it will make you question what you think. I know that a lot of older books get a bad rap for being long and boring, but this book was thoroughly entertaining and engaging for its entire duration. It also amazes me that this was based very closely off of a real story and that real people had to endure the hardships and adversity that is described in the book. I have read many books like this before and I really enjoy the kind of high sea high adventure books like this. I do read a very diverse selection of books, so this book falls square in my comfort zone of things that I would like to read, and it does remind me of other books that I have read that are similar to this one.

Part 3

*Just as a warning, I can’t really explain how the big idea word fits in without spoiling the whole ending, so if you don’t want it spoiled, then stop reading here. Otherwise, read on.

The Big Idea word that I chose for this book is cruelty. In the brief summary of the book that I offered before, it is clear that the oppressive cruelty of Captain Bligh weighed heavily on the men on the way to Tahiti, but it is really necessary to pick up the narrative where I left off to garner the full extent of how the concept of cruelty fits into this book, hence the spoiler alert above.
Bligh was an incredibly tyrannical and abusive captain, and as the authors write “He considers them dogs to be kicked according to his whim.” (Hall and Nordhoff, 96) What really set things in motion was when Bligh Accused Christian of stealing his coconuts. Following the incident where captain Bligh accused Fletcher Christian, the tension on board the Bounty continued to snowball. There were those who were loyal to Bligh, and those who were loyal to Christian, and both sides resented each other with spitting hatred.
It seems like such a small matter, but as the authors write “ I had never seen a man in such a mood of black despair, he seemed at the last extremity of endurance” (Hall and Nordhoff, 96) This incident took an incredible toll on Christian. And it all came to a head when on an early morning, Fletcher Christian made the decision to mutiny. He and his most loyal followers captured Bligh in his cabin. Roger Byam was not one of the mutineers but was brought up on deck with everyone else. The mutineers decided to set Bligh and 18 of his loyal followers adrift in a 22 foot long open boat with almost no food, supplies, or water. This is the second place where cruelty makes itself obvious. Bligh was verbally and sometimes physically abusive, but the mutineers set him adrift in a glorified rowboat so overloaded that it was on the verge of sinking in calm water. This was essentially a death sentence for the men in the boat. It is also important to note that Byam desired to go with Bligh, but there was no room in the boat.
While on Tahiti, Byam and his loyal friends lived a life of pleasure and began families while waiting for the first British ship to take them home. But when that ship, the HMS Pandora, did come, Byam did not receive the welcome he had hoped for. He was imprisoned for the crime of mutiny and along with 8 others, was held captive in irons inside the bowels of the Pandora for the 15 month Journey to England, all as an innocent man. This is the third major occurrence of cruelty. Byam was unjustly accused of mutiny, unfairly starved and kept in the dark inside the nastiest, foulest place on a ship, all while being innocent. If that isn’t cruelty than nothing is.
The cruelty of the British Navy in that time period is again displayed in the next part of the story. The men brought back to England are court-martialled. Four innocent men walk free, three guilty mutineers are sentenced to hang, and Byam, based purely on circumstantial evidence, will hang with them. This complete and utter cruelty is devastating to Byam, and he spends the ensuing torturous weeks wallowing in his condition.
Thankfully, the story does not end there. There is one man who has evidence that can save Byam from the noose. He was believed to be drowned but just showed up in London as a shipwreck survivor. His evidence is heard, and Byam is miraculously acquitted. But perhaps the final point of cruelty is the survivors’ guilt that Byam feels as he is forced to watch three of his best friends be hung.
This book is full of evidence that the cruelty of one man can bounce back and reflect not only upon himself but upon innocent bystanders as well. The whole story can be summed up by Bligh’s philosophy upon which he lived his life:
“Now don't mistake me. I'm not advising cruelty or brutality with no purpose. My point is that cruelty with purpose is not cruelty - it's efficiency. Then a man will never disobey once he's watched his mate's backbone laid bare. He'll see the flesh jump, hear the whistle of the whip for the rest of his life.” *
*This quote is not actually from the book itself but was actually said by the real Captain Bligh. It still helps illustrate the utter cruelty with which Bligh lived his life.


Patrick Does anyone recall a novel that came out in the 1990s that centered on Fletcher Christian after the known events? It came out around the same time as a similar book "The Last Mutiny" that followed Bligh. Can't recall title or author, but I'm pretty sure I read it.


Siobhán In reality, Bligh wasn't the cruelest captain in the Navy at the time. There were many other that were so much crueler than he was, from their punishments to their unreasonableness. People study the "phenomenon" of the Bounty mutiny, which I find fascinating.

This book describes Bligh as the cruelest man to ever sail the seas, and I don't mind the deviation from reality. It makes me feel that much more sympathetic for the characters. Overall, it is definitely in my top five books.


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