Friday, April 16, 2010

Bounty Trilogy

Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea, Pitcairn's Island published in the early 1930's by by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.

The trilogy, based on a true story, is a fictionalized account of the confrontation between William Bligh and Fletcher Christian which culminated in a mutiny on the high seas aboard British Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty in 1789, and its aftermath for these two men.  In the flow of these books villain becomes hero and hero becomes villain.

The keystone to this three part saga is Mutiny on the Bounty, narrated by a Midshipmen aboard the Bounty.  After sailing from England to Tahiti on a scientific expedition to collect breadfruit plants in the hopes of introducing them as a new food source in the West Indies colonies, the crew of the Bounty become enamored with the warm weather and easy way of life among the natives on the island.  Living ashore with the Polynesians for several months, the crew, newly tattooed in the style of the Tahitians, begrudgingly set sail for the West Indies, leaving romantic relationships in their wake.  The novelist contrast the beauty of the South Pacific islands with the harshness of life at sea in the 18th century.  Mutiny, romance, injustice, duty verses desire, set adrift at sea, running from authorities, attempting to start a new life -- all transpire in this first novel.

Most have seen at least one of Hollywood's renditions of this story, but the  cinema is unable to provide the depth the written word can, nor the detail the story deserves.  Does Bligh misuse his power as Ship's Captain, can Christian justify this mutinous actions as an act of romantic necessity, these are questions the reader must answer.

Men Against the Sea is the story of William Bligh and his 18 men that are marooned on the ship's 23-foot open launch and set adrift. Their fight for survival on the high seas as they navigate through over 3,600 miles of open water is detailed by the narrator in a most compelling way.  I list Men Against the Sea as one of my all-time favorite adventure books; it is short enough to be read in a single sitting.

The final piece to the trilogy is Pitcairn’s Island, the story of Fletcher Christian and his mutineers as they are joined by their Tahitian wives and other Polynesians and flee to an uncharted island in the South Pacific to live out their lives in seclusion.  The worst of human nature materializes as they realize they are trapped on the island with no chance of escape; greed, jealously, paranoia all takes a toll on the small band of inhabitants. 

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