Why did Charlotte Doyle join the crew?

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After Charlotte snaps a needle, she goes in search of a new one in the crew's sleeping quarters. There, she accidentally discovers a pistol and a round robin--two signs that the crew is planning a mutiny against Captain Jaggery. Frightened of what might happen to her if she does not report this discovery, Charlotte betrays the crew by telling Jaggery of the crew's plans. Captain Jaggery immediately punishes the crew, shooting Mr. Cranick, the stowaway, and sentencing Zachariah to fifty lashes by whipping. Charlotte attempts to protect Zachariah, but accidentally lashes Jaggery's face in the process. This causes Jaggery to react even more obscenely, and he whips Zachariah to death.

Thus, Charlotte makes the unusual choice to join the crew in order to compensate for her role in the death of Zachariah; she serves as his replacement. Additionally, Charlotte is no longer under the protection of Jaggery, and making herself useful as a crew member is the next best way to find protection on this dangerous journey. Charlotte proves that she can handle the work of a crew member by successfully climbing the ratlines. Upon her descent, Jaggery strikes her, renames her "Mister Doyle," and orders her to begin sleeping in the crew's quarters. 

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