The Mutiny on the Bounty By Charles Nordhoff and James Hall Summary and Analysis Chapters 10-11

Summary

Chapter 10 begins with a list of those who accompanied Bligh in the launch, a list of those who took an active part in the mutiny, and a list of those who remain on the Bounty but took no part in the mutiny. Roger Byam is included in this last group.

Christian stresses to his fellow mutineers the need for order on the ship and is elected captain. He tells the other men that they will be treated fairly — as long as they show no hostility towards the crew.

Christian then begins sailing the South Sea for an uninhabited island where the men of the Bounty can live. An island, Rarotonga, is sighted and approached, but the Bounty sails on.

Christian asks Byam into his cabin, and the two men talk about the mutiny. Christian tells Byam that it was not planned; it suddenly happened in a five-minute span. Byam learns further that Christian had planned to desert the ship on a raft built secretly by John Norton, the quartermaster, but because the weather was so calm, it thwarted his plan. Christian relates to Byam the sequence of events just prior to the seizure of the ship: how he had seen Hayward asleep at his watch, and how "as plainly as though they had been spoken, I heard the words 'Seize the ship!"'

On May 29, the ship arrives at an island believed to be Tupuai, discovered by Captain Cook. The islanders are hostile towards the Bounty, and the ship is soon forced to abandon all hopes of making a landing. Some of the mutineers want to turn the Bounty's guns on the islanders, but Christian will have no part in this. He is resolved to make "a peaceful settlement or none at all." Christian then calls a meeting of the mutineers, and it is decided to sail for Tahiti.

Christian tells Byam that they are headed for Tahiti, but that those men who didn't participate in the mutiny won't be permitted to go ashore. Christian fears that they might persuade the Tahitians to attack the Bounty, or else try to escape and wait for an English ship to pick them up. The breadfruit trees stored in the great cabin are thrown overboard, and, meanwhile, Byam, Stewart, and Morrison talk about escape. In desperation, they make plans for Peggy, Stewart's Tahitian lover, to sneak up to the side of the Bounty in a canoe. They will then jump into it and escape.

On the fifth of June, the Bounty reaches Tahiti. The Tahitians are told that the Bounty met Captain Cook's ship, and that Bligh and other members of the crew, including the botanist, transferred the breadfruit trees to Cook's ship, the captain staying aboard his "father's vessel" while the Bounty, under Christian's command, returned to Tahiti for further trading.

Stewart talks with Peggy aboard the Bounty, and the two plan the escape, but the weather is so bad that there is no chance to escape before Christian orders the anchors raised, and the Bounty sails out of Matavi Bay.

The Bounty, now carrying the Tahitians who wished to join the men aboard, again sails towards Tupuai. The Tahitians persuade the Tupuai natives to let the sailors live on the island, but hostilities still exist. Growing tired of the constant fighting between themselves and the natives, the crew of the Bounty and the Tahitians leave the island. Sixteen of the crew want to be taken to Tahiti, so Christian acquiesces. Byam, Stewart, Morrison, and thirteen others are dropped off at Tahiti, and Christian and those who remain with him set sail in search of an uninhabited island to live out the remainder of their lives. Byam returns to live with Hitihiti.

Analysis

In Chapter 10, we learn almost as much about the enigmatic Fletcher Christian as we are ever to know. Byam reports that he knows the man as well as anyone, but he feels that there is some hidden force driving Christian. Byam reports that Christian's "sense of the wrongs he suffered at Bligh's hands was so deep and overpowering as to dominate . . . every other feeling." Byam feels that Christian is a man of such passion that when he feels the extent of the injustice perpetrated against him, he loses all sense of everything — except his own misery.

After the mutiny, Christian becomes somewhat of a solitary man, yet he runs the ship efficiently and, unlike Bligh, with justice. He does not resort to petty flogging to satisfy his whims. Instead, he has a sense of justice that allows him to treat his men as human beings. Had Bligh possessed this attitude, the mutiny would never have occurred. Byam writes that "the absence of Bligh was a godsend to all of us, mutineers and non-mutineers alike. There was no more of the continual feeling of tension, of uncertainty as to what would happen. . . . Christian maintained the strictest discipline, but no one had cause to complain of his justice." It is ironic that Christian is a born leader of men, yet due to the circumstances connected with the mutiny, he was never allowed to display that leadership.

Byam is surprised to discover that the mutiny was unplanned. Christian assures him that ten minutes before the mutiny, he had not even considered seizing Bligh, but instead had already collaborated with the ship's quartermaster to build him a small craft so he could desert the ship. Being a man of conscience, he regrets the fate that he has brought on others. Concerning Bligh, however, he has no regrets; Bligh is a man so sordid and so contemptible that there can be no pity for him.

When Byam and his companions discover that they won't be allowed to go ashore in Tahiti, they plan an escape. They have no idea that they have been accused of treason back in England, and it will, of course, be a shock to them when they discover this fact. Unfortunately, their plan to escape from the ship is foiled by the weather.

Chapter 11 brings a conclusion to the fate of the Bounty. For some fortunate (but unexplained) reasons, Byam and anyone who wishes to remain on Tahiti are allowed to do so.

Glossary

the arms chest the chest where the firearms are kept.

the barrier reef a reef of coral running parallel to the shore and separated from it by deep water.

to come to naught to fail.

King George King George III of England; ruled for 60 years (1760-1820); his policies led to the American Revolution.

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