Roger Byam The fictitious narrative character used by the authors to tell the story of the mutiny on the Bounty. Historically, there was no such person as Byam; he is simply a creation of the authors in order to dramatize the latter portion of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, Roger is seventeen years old. He attracts the attention of Captain Bligh because of his unique ability to learn quickly and master the intricacies of foreign languages. Because the sailors of the South Sea need to learn the language prevalent in that part of the world in order to trade with the natives, the British government hires Byam to compile a dictionary of the Tahitian language and an accompanying grammar book. Early in the novel, we discover that Byam comes from a highly respected family and that he is a man of absolute integrity.
Captain William Bligh The captain of the Bounty, he is sailing to Tahiti to gather breadfruit trees, whose fruit will be used as cheap food for the slaves of the British landowners in the West Indies. Bligh's strict disciplinary measures will be directly responsible for the seizure of the Bounty by Lieutenant Fletcher Christian and his followers. Bligh's unreasonable behavior, coupled with the crew's knowledge that he has been cheating them of their due rations, makes most of them despise him. Bligh's harsh punishments for minor offenses (or, often, imagined acts) make him an object of scorn and eventually cause the men to mutiny against him. Bligh, however, is an immensely skilled navigator, and he leads his small band of survivors over a great expanse of sea to safety — seemingly, an almost impossible feat.
Fletcher Christian One of the ranking officers on the Bounty, Christian comes from genteel stock and finally finds it impossible to endure all of the insults heaped upon him by Captain Bligh. His statement that most men can be ruled by kindness and reason is ridiculed by Bligh, and when Christian is accused of theft and alleged conspiracy, he leads the others in a mutiny. Subsequently, he is declared captain of the Bounty and the leader of a band of mutineers, whom he ultimately guides to an unknown island. Throughout the novel, Christian is depicted as an honest man, one who has never done anything dishonorable. In fact, it is his strong sense of honesty which makes him burn with shame when he is accused of something dishonest; in addition, his shame is made even more intolerable because he is humiliated in front of the crew. The movies made from this novel usually depict Christian in heroic proportions.
Chapter 10 focuses almost wholly on Christian's character, emphasizing his deep sense of the wrong that he feels he suffers at the hands of Captain Bligh. Byam understands and empathizes with Fletcher Christian's feelings, but once the mutiny occurs, Byam does not sympathize with Christian's plight.
John Fryer Master of the Bounty. In spite of the fact that he strongly dislikes Captain Bligh, he is nevertheless loyal to the King's Navy, and he is the type of man whom Fletcher Christian will not want to have on board the Bounty after the mutiny because Christian knows that despite the fact that Fryer detests Bligh, Fryer will make every effort to retake the Bounty. His testimony at Byam's court-martial should clear the young man, but unfortunately it doesn't.
Robert Tinkler Tinkler is Mr. Fryer's brother-in-law. We first encounter him as a victim of Bligh's infamous and unjust punishments: the young man is forced to undergo severe hardships for being awake after all candles were to be extinguished and the men in their berths. While he is not Byam's closest friend, they are good comrades. Tinkler's key scene in the novel occurs as he overhears a conversation between Byam and Christian, when Byam tells Christian, "You can count on me, sir." Tinkler's main function lies in his being "resurrected" so that he can repeat the whole of this conversation to the Royal High Admiralty, testimony which will acquit Roger Byam.
Thomas Hayward and John Hallet These two men are the midshipmen who could testify in Byam's behalf; instead, they want to cover up the fact that both of them cried and whimpered to stay aboard the Bounty after Christian had taken command of the ship. Villainously, they implicate both James Morrison and Roger Byam in the mutiny. Hallet, in particular, has a grudge against Morrison and Byam because they caught him informing on his comrades, and they witnessed his disgraceful bawling during the conclusion of the mutiny.
Thomas Huggan The surgeon aboard the Bounty, the ship's "saw-bones." Huggan drinks a lot and prescribes alcohol as a remedy for every ailment that befalls the crew. For example, after Tinkler is taken down from the bone-chilling mast after twenty-four hours, Huggan gives him a strong shot of rum, which allows Tinkler to return to service on deck, "none the worse for his night aloft."
When the good-natured surgeon dies on Tahiti, men such as Fletcher Christian know that he will be sorely missed because of his good humor and his humane treatment of the sailors.
David Nelson The botanist who knows of Byam's loyalty and who could have testified about Byam's wish to join Bligh in the launch. His untimely death removes a key witness for Byam.
John Norton The quartermaster who could have corroborated Christian's intention to escape from the Bounty on a raft built by Norton during the night preceding the mutiny. His death is particularly untimely since the members of the court-martial board think that it is unbelievable that a quartermaster would be doing carpenter work when there were two qualified carpenters on the ship. The court-martial board does not believe Byam's testimony about Norton building a raft for Christian because they feel Byam chose to say this about Norton because he knew Norton to be dead and unable to substantiate Byam's testimony.
William Purcell The unpleasant carpenter, whose tyranny is surpassed only by the tyranny of Captain Bligh. The two men — captain and carpenter — despise one another, but as much as Purcell hates Bligh, he is loyal to Bligh and will have absolutely nothing to do with the mutineers, whom he calls scoundrels and outlaws.
Mr. Samuel The clerk who helps Captain Bligh cheat the men out of their fair share of rations. Next to Bligh and Purcell, he is the most detested person aboard the Bounty.
James Morrison The boatswain's mate, Morrison joins Byam and Stewart in secretly planning to retake the Bounty after Christian has bound Bligh, but their plans are foiled when their guard is doubled. Morrison is unable to join Bligh in the launch because of the crowded conditions in the small boat; therefore, he is forced to remain on board the ship, along with Byam. As a result of this act of fate, he is found guilty of mutiny, but because of extenuating circumstances aboard the Bounty, the court-martial board grants Morrison clemency.
Thomas Ellison The youthful boy who has nothing to do with the mutiny, yet once it begins, he delights in taunting Bligh. He has undergone much suffering at the hands of the tyrannical and irrational Captain Bligh, and it is understandable that he would want to offer one last taunt at Bligh. For this adolescent indiscretion, he is hanged.
Captain Edwards The captain of the Pandora, whose mission is to search out, find, and return to England all of the Bounty's mutineers for trial. Edwards carries out "the letter of the law" with no concept of the "spirit of the law." At times, he seems to be brutal, hateful, spiteful, despicable, obnoxious, and as cruel as Bligh himself.
Lieutenant Parkin Captain Edwards' lieutenant aboard the Pandora; he delights in sadistically and unnecessarily punishing the prisoners. For example, while the ship is anchored in the harbor of Tahiti, amidst a plethora of fresh meat and fresh fruit, he sadistically forces the prisoners to eat moldy, hard-tack biscuits and dry meat.
Captain Montague The captain of the H.M.S. Hector, on which the accused mutineers are imprisoned. In contrast to the other captains whom we have seen in this novel, Captain Montague is humane, decent, and very considerate of their mental and physical welfare. For example, Captain Montague treats Byam as a gentleman, allowing Byam to read his letters in private, as well as take exercises in the open; in general, he treats Byam with the humanity due Byam. After Byam is cleared of the charge of mutiny, Montague asks Byam to join him in Montague's next excursion at sea.
Dr. Hamilton As the doctor aboard the Pandora, he continually intercedes for the benefit of the prisoners; he sees that their quarters are clean and that they are well fed, and he uses his influence with Captain Edwards to secure some small amenities for them. He remains firm in his belief that Byam is innocent of mutiny, and he continues to support Byam even after Byam is convicted and sentenced to death.
Sir Joseph Banks Byam's influential friend who is responsible for Byam's first meeting with Bligh; later, he is Byam's staunchest defender during the court-martial. To Byam, Sir Joseph is one of those exceptional men who seem to be a member of a race apart from all others, the type of man who finds himself equally at home among common seamen or among the lords of the realm. In appearance, he is described as being a typical Englishman, one who could have been taken from a Dickens novel. He is solidly built, yet seems to radiate energy and strength, and is one of the busiest and most influential men in London. Part of Sir Joseph's influence comes from his being president of the prestigious Royal Society, an organization which has influence in all spheres of English life.
Officially, Sir Joseph is anxious for Byam to undertake a journey on the Bounty in order to complete a dictionary of the Tahitian language for use in Britain's vast trading and colonization network. Throughout the trial, and afterwards, Sir Joseph remains convinced of Byam's innocence, and when Byam is condemned to die, Sir Joseph announces that no greater injustice has ever been perpetrated than that against Byam: "There has never been a more tragic miscarriage of justice in the history of His Majesty's Navy." The fact that Sir Joseph uses his influence as president of the Royal Society to gain Byam an extra month to finish his dictionary also gives him enough time to find Tinkler and submit his testimony on Byam's behalf. At the end of the novel, Sir Joseph is influential in convincing Byam to make the navy his vocation.
Mr. Graham The naval officer who acts as Byam's advocate during the court-martial proceedings. As a naval officer, Mr. Graham is cautious, yet totally convinced of Byam's innocence.
Mr. Erskine Byam's father's attorney and a friend of the family. After the court-martial, he provides Byam with a quiet sanctuary so that Byam can put the horrible tribulations he has undergone into perspective.
Hitihiti The Tahitian chief who befriends Byam and helps him formulate the Tahitian dictionary. Byam lives with Hitihiti and becomes part of his household until Byam marries the beautiful Tehani.
Tehani The exquisitely lovely Tahitian princess who becomes Byam's wife and, later, the mother of their daughter, Helen. When Byam is imprisoned aboard the Pandora, Tehani wants to lead a revolt against the ship in an attempt to free Byam, but Byam convinces her that to attempt to free him would lead to the annihilation of vast numbers of Tahitians.