Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

USS Caine

USS Caine. U.S. Navy destroyer-minesweeper on which Willis Keith serves and grows from a spoiled and dependent youth to a battle-tested man. The Caine is not an impressive ship, a small and rusty vessel that dates from World War I and is acknowledged by its first captain, de Vriess, to be outdated. However, in its very mediocrity it has a power to reveal the best and worst in each of the characters. From the moment Keith comes aboard, he and the other characters are shown through how they handle the various crises they encounter, culminating in the disastrous typhoon. Captain Queeg proves unequal to the task of command time and time again, and finally comes apart entirely when confronted with nature’s wrath. Keith grows into his role as a naval officer and ultimately shows heroism in the face of a Japanese kamikaze attack, saving the ship while Tom Keefer, the instigator of the mutiny against Queeg, panics and flees.

With expertise drawn from his own war experience aboard naval destroyer-minesweepers, Wouk uses the multitude of small details of the Caine, its various compartments and equipment, to paint a picture of life aboard a steam-powered naval vessel as vivid as the stories of Napoleonic sailing warships created by Patrick O’Brien and C. S. Forester. The Caine in essence becomes another character of the novel, complete with its own foibles and peculiarities with which the human characters must deal. Its name, which evokes the biblical figure of Cain and the mark placed upon him by God for slaying...

(The entire section is 647 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

World War II—The South Pacific
On December 7,1941, the Japanese plan to deliver a declaration of war to President Roosevelt...

(The entire section is 595 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Wouk's narrative technique is perhaps the most interesting yet problematic aspect of the novel. There is evidence of...

(The entire section is 415 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

While Wouk concentrates on individual episodes to explore the character of the ship's captain and the reactions of those trying to cope with...

(The entire section is 183 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Caine Mutiny can spark lively group discussion, largely because of its controversial plot. Many people will feel that Wouk betrays...

(The entire section is 585 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Caine Mutiny is the first of Wouk's novels in which he explores the social phenomenon for which he has gained fame: the impact of...

(The entire section is 215 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

WWII: After Japan's surrender, America occupies Japan.

1950s: On September 8, 1951, the United States and Japan...

(The entire section is 324 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Pick one of the novels referenced by Wouk in the story. Read that novel and compare it to The Caine Mutiny. How does the constant...

(The entire section is 142 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Caine Mutiny is often compared with other important novels that emerged from World War II, especially James Jones's From Here...

(The entire section is 84 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Wouk continues his examination of World War II in two important later novels: The Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance...

(The entire section is 74 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

One of the major reasons for the enduring popularity of Wouk's story of the Caine was its adaptation as a motion picture (1954). With...

(The entire section is 90 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

Using the screenplay by (Seymour) Michael Blankfort, The Caine Mutiny was filmed by Columbia Pictures in 1954. Humphrey Bogart stars...

(The entire section is 129 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Herman Melville wrote a brilliantly and symbolically charged novella in 1797. It focuses on the experiences of a family member of Melville's...

(The entire section is 284 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Beichman, Arnold W. The Novelist as a Social Historian. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1984. Concentrates on Wouk’s conservatism. There are useful observations on The Caine Mutiny and the problems it raises about authority versus individualism.

Darby, William. Necessary American Fiction: Popular Literature of the 1950’s. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Press, 1987. An insightful analysis of how popular novels such as The Caine Mutiny reflect American values of the decade.

Jones, Peter G. War and the Novelist. Columbia: University of Missouri Press,...

(The entire section is 160 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Pearl K. Bell, in Commentary, December, 1978.

Eric Bentley, "Captain Bligh's Revenge," in his The...

(The entire section is 393 words.)