The Mutiny on the Bounty By Charles Nordhoff and James Hall Summary and Analysis Chapters 16-17

Summary

The following morning, Captain Edwards enters the prisoners' cell and orders Lieutenant Parkin to inform the men that they may converse — but only in English. He then leaves the cell, and Parkin checks Stewart's irons by having Stewart lie on his back while Parkin steps on his chest and pulls sharply on the irons. The irons rip the skin off the backs of Stewart's hands and knuckles; he attempts to lunge at Parkin but is unsuccessful because of the irons around his ankles. Tighter irons are put on Stewart.

The four men are moved on deck into a roundhouse, eleven feet long and eighteen feet wide. Two days later, Morrison, Norman, and Ellison are placed in the roundhouse, having been captured by the Pandora's launch, headed by Hayward. McIntosh, Hillbrandt, Burkitt, Millward, Sumner, Muspratt, and Byrne are also brought into the roundhouse and shackled; they were captured on the island of Papara, where Morrison, Norman, and Ellison were captured earlier.

Dr. Hamilton visits the men in the roundhouse, and they ask him if they might have fresh food instead of salt beef and hard bread. Hamilton is taken aback, thinking that the prisoners have been receiving fresh food. It is apparent to the men that Captain Edwards and Hamilton have no idea of the cruel conditions that Lieutenant Parkin is imposing on the men.

Dr. Hamilton takes Byam and Stewart to the sick bay on the lower deck, where Tehani and Peggy are waiting with their daughters. Tehani and Peggy tell the two men that some of the Tahitians are planning to attack the Pandora in order to free the men, but Byam and Stewart tell them that it is futile to try, whereupon the two women burst into tears.

Dr. Hamilton persuades Captain Edwards to allow the prisoners to speak in Tahitian so that Byam can work on the Tahitian dictionary and gain from the conversation. The Pandora then leaves Tahiti in search of the Bounty.

The long days and nights spent in the roundhouse by the fourteen men begin to take their toll. Hillbrandt begins to pray constantly, even in the middle of the night, fearful of the court-martial that lies ahead. He can think of nothing but the court-martial: "We're doomed, men . . . doomed, every one of us! We're to be hanged, think of that! Choked to death at the end of a rope!"

The Pandora continues to search the South Sea for Christian and the Bounty, but after two months of finding no trace of her, except for a driver gaff, Captain Edwards decides to head back to England.

Analysis

Mutiny on the Bounty presents its characters essentially in black and white. That is, men like Bligh and Parkin are "black," meaning evil, while men like Dr. Hamilton and Sir Joseph Banks, who sends word to Byam that he believes in the innocence of the young boy, are meant to be seen as "white," meaning good and noble. If it weren't for the constant interference and watchful eye of Dr. Hamilton, it is doubtful that the prisoners would have reached England alive. Although Hamilton tries to defend Captain Edwards as a just man, Byam's opinion is that Edwards is cruel; we will see evidence of this during the shipwreck episode. Finally, even good Dr. Hamilton has to admit that men like Captain Edwards too often carry out the "letter" of the law and not the "spirit" of the law, causing unnecessary anguish and grief. However, Captain Edwards' behavior is mild in comparison with the deliberate malevolence of Lieutenant Parkin, who sadistically delights in inflicting punishment on the men.

It is interesting to note that at the end of Chapter 17, men such as Byam, Stewart, Morrison, Coleman, Norman, McIntosh, and Byrne (men who were opposed to the mutiny), now that they have been captured and are being treated in an inhumane way, desperately hope that the Pandora does not find Fletcher Christian and his crew of mutineers. Under such adverse treatment, their values have significantly altered.

Glossary

manacles handcuffs, or irons.

humours ailments.

steward the man in charge of domestic affairs aboard ship.

kicked from larboard to starboard kicked from one side of the ship (the port, left-hand side) to the other (the right-hand side).

galled chaffed, raw.

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