*Withycombe. Village in western England’s Somerset district that is the ancestral home of Roger Byam, the novel’s fictional narrator. Writing from Withycombe at age seventy-three, Byam recounts his initiation to life at sea when he was a midshipman on HMS Bounty in the late 1780’s.
*Spithead. British naval base near southern England’s Portsmouth Harbour, where Byam reports for duty aboard the Bounty in 1787. While the ship’s sailing is delayed for a month, Byam becomes acquainted with his shipmates and gets his first taste of the severity of naval discipline when he witnesses a sailor being flogged around the fleet—an incident that foreshadows Captain William Bligh’s severe treatment of the Bounty’s crew.
*HMS Bounty. Historical British warship about half of whose crewmen mutinied on April 28, 1789. With a length of only ninety feet and a displacement of only 215 tons, the Bounty was a cramped vessel for the long mission on which it was sent, and the special provisions made to accommodate the breadfruit plants make conditions for the crew even worse. After the ship goes to sea, Captain Bligh places the men on short, often inedible, rations, has both seamen and officers flogged, and is suspected of stealing from the ship’s stores himself for his own profit. Meanwhile, a rift develops between Bligh and Fletcher Christian, his second-in-command. After suffering the rigors of a long and exhausting voyage, as well as Bligh’s discipline, the crewmen enjoy a long respite on Tahiti—a tropical paradise whose conditions are polar opposites of those aboard the Bounty. However, after the ship departs from the island, Bligh returns to his former autocratic self and even confiscates gifts his men received on Tahiti. After First Mate Christian leads the mutiny, he takes command of the ship and becomes as autocratic as Bligh. Not being one of the mutineers, the narrator Byam is a among a handful of men whom the mutineers return to Tahiti. The later fate of the Bounty is related by a different narrator in the authors’ sequel to...
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