And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. ”- Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan Jessep, in A Few Good Men “ See, while I was studying law ‘ n old Keefer here was writing his play for the Theatre Guild, and Willie here was on the playing fields of Princeton, all that time these birds we call regulars – these stuffy, stupid Prussians, in the Navy and the Soldier were manning guns.
[ Commander Queeg ], for ough, was standing guard on this fat dumb and happy country of ours. ”- Barney Greenwald in Herman Wouk ’ s The Caine MutinyThe Caine Mutiny is a turducken of a ook.
Somewhere between the covers is a taut, 200-page legal thriller arising from the titular mutiny aboard the USS Caine, and the subsequent court-martial.
The old, decrepit destroyer-minesweeper USS Caine serves on the fringes of war.
The officers aboard the Caine, especially the resident novelist, Lt. Keefer ( something of a stand-in for Wouk), think him mad.
More of The Caine Mutiny a is Campbell-esque hero ’ s tri, except that in the world of destroyer-minesweepers, there aren ’ t really heroes.
In Wouk ’ s rologue, he portentously intones that the story to follow turns on Keith ’ s “ personality as the massive door of a vault turns on a small jewel bearing. ” Before we get to that point, however, we follow Willie through midshipmen school, to his posting on an admiral ’ s staff in Hawaii, and finally to his placement as communications officer on the Caine.
He enjoys positioning the tininess of the Caine ’ s role against the massive backdrop of the Pacific War. He comments on the desir of the Caine ’ s soldier and men to understand their place in the grand scheme of things.
Wouk points out that we readers have an advantage over his characters, in that they can not see over the horizon.
Wouk served on a destroyer-minesweeper during World War I, and his evocation of the experience is almost tactile.
It feels like the lessons that Willie learn throughout the ovel are the ones that Wouk himself probably learned.
( In an almost apologetic forward, Wouk stresses that this is a fictional work, lest one think that such a thing as mutiny could ever happen in the U.S. Navy).
Wouk is generally pro-military and sees war as a sometimes necessary evil, positions that never fit with postwar, Vietnam-influenced classics like Catch 22.In terms of style, he is not formally daring, I suppose.
As in, he might be the best war novelist of all time.
It is telling that none of the eople in The Caine Mutiny are all good or all bad.
The dialogue, especially the court-martial, is also quite sharp, good enough to be transplanted almost verbatim into the film version ( featuring Humphrey Bogart ’ s towering performance as Queeg) .The Caine Mutiny is a masterpiece, a powerful tudy of command, of loyalty, and of duty, set on one of the most unlikely stages of all: the antique decks of a misfit ship sailing at the outer periphery of world-historical events.