The Bounty by Caroline Alexander

The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty

Title:The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty
Author(s):Caroline Alexander
Published:September 15, 2003
Date Added:May 8, 2023
calibre ID:e-733
Date Finished:n/a

About the Book

Has history been wrong for 200 years? Read the startling truth about the mutiny on the Bounty, its characters, causes, and aftermath. Television rights are now in development with Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions.

More than two centuries after Master’s Mate Fletcher Christian led a mutiny against Lieutenant William Bligh on a small, armed transport vessel called Bounty, the true story of this enthralling adventure has become obscured by the legend. Combining vivid characterization and deft storytelling, Caroline Alexander shatters the centuries-old myths surrounding this story. She brilliantly shows how, in a desperate attempt to save one man from the gallows and another from ignominy, two powerful families came together and began to create the version of history we know today. The true story of the mutiny on the Bounty is an epic of duty and heroism, pride and power, and the assassination of a brave man’s honor at the dawn of the Romantic age.

Source: Penguin-Random House

More than two centuries have passed since Master’s Mate Fletcher Christian mutinied against Lieutenant Bligh on a small, armed transport vessel called Bounty. Why the details of this obscure adventure at the end of the world remain vivid and enthralling is as intriguing as the truth behind the legend.

In giving the Bounty mutiny its historical due, Caroline Alexander has chosen to frame her narrative by focusing on the court-martial of the ten mutineers who were captured in Tahiti and brought to justice in England. This fresh perspective wonderfully revivifies the entire saga, and the salty, colorful language of the captured men themselves conjures the events of that April morning in 1789, when Christian’s breakdown impelled every man on a fateful course: Bligh and his loyalists on the historic open boat voyage that revealed him to be one of history’s great navigators; Christian on his restless exile; and the captured mutineers toward their day in court. As the book unfolds, each figure emerges as a full-blown character caught up in a drama that may well end on the gallows. And as Alexander shows, it was in a desperate fight to escape hanging that one of the accused defendants deliberately spun the mutiny into the myth we know today-of the tyrannical Lieutenant Bligh of the Bounty.

Ultimately, Alexander concludes that the Bounty mutiny was sparked by that most unpredictable, combustible, and human of situations-the chemistry between strong personalities living in close quarters. Her account of the voyage, the trial, and the surprising fates of Bligh, Christian, and the mutineers is an epic of ambition, passion, pride, and duty at the dawn of the Romantic era.

Source: Goodreads


He Was No Charles Laughton

By Verlyn Klinkenborg | Sept. 14, 2003

The events that took place aboard the Bounty at sunrise on April 28, 1789, boil down to the characters of two men, William Bligh, age 34, and the mutineer, Fletcher Christian, who was a decade younger. As he waited, hands bound behind him, to be lowered into the Bounty’s overloaded launch — and having shouted himself hoarse calling for aid — Bligh asked Christian, who had sailed with him twice before, how he could have found the ingratitude to mutiny. Bligh recorded Christian’s answer in his journal. ”That! — Captain Bligh,” said Christian, sounding much like Milton’s Satan, ”that is the thing — I am in hell — I am in hell.”

Whereas it’s safe to say that Bligh was not in hell. Not during the voyage to Tahiti to collect breadfruit trees, or during the mutiny or aboard the 23-foot launch in which he and 18 members of his crew made an astonishing 48-day, 3,600-mile journey. Bligh was not in hell even while awaiting transport home in Batavia, Java, now Jakarta, a pestilence-ridden city that actually was hell, according to contemporary accounts. Bligh sailed with a sublime self-confidence he had learned in part from Capt. James Cook, whose final expedition he had joined as sailing master. Bligh was a brilliant navigator and, like Cook, devoted to the physical health of his men at a time when scurvy still regularly felled ships’ crews. He had the satisfaction of knowing his duty and doing it.

Particular Bligh certainly was, even pettily so. He had quarreled with Christian the day before the mutiny over the theft of some coconuts. Lacking a company of marines — which Cook had always sailed with — Bligh often had trouble enforcing his authority, in part because he tried to extend it to the very minutiae of shipboard life. But Bligh was no sadistic disciplinarian, no monster of the lash, not by Royal Navy standards. He lacked the inner Laughton we imagine him having. ”On the Bounty,” Caroline Alexander writes in her stirring book about the mutiny, ”William Bligh had punished his crew with 229 lashes in the course of a voyage of 17 months to the South Pacific.” In contrast, one of the captains who presided at the courts-martial of some of the Bounty mutineers ordered 278 lashes in just three and a half weeks aboard his ship, the Brunswick. This is the kind of detail that makes one rethink the satisfying tale that the mutiny on the Bounty has become in popular culture. Alexander’s vigorous retelling in ”The Bounty” leads to lots of vigorous rethinking.

To begin with, that old nugget of a tale, as most of us think we know it, is just that, a nugget, a concise dramatic turn aboard a ship overloaded with breadfruit after a long stay in Tahiti and bound for the West Indies. The popular versions of the story are usually over-motivated — either a tyrannical Bligh, à la Laughton, or a maddeningly effete Christian, à la Brando — because the actual mutiny seems, if anything, under-motivated. Had Christian appeared at the courts-martial held in Portsmouth harbor in 1792, he might have explained what hell it was that drove him to his actions. It would be worth knowing. The testimony of the mutineers who were court-martialed makes them, and Christian, seem terribly thin-skinned for late-18th-century sailors. Bligh may have been guilty of little more than being inconsiderate of their feelings.

Source: The New York Times

About the Author

Caroline Alexander

Caroline Alexander was born in Florida to British parents and has lived in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. She studied philosophy and theology at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and has a doctorate in classics from Columbia University. She is the author of the bestselling The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, which has been translated into 13 languages. She writes frequently for The New Yorker and National Geographic, and she is the author of four other books, including Mrs. Chippy’s Last Expedition, the journal of the Endurance‘s ship’s cat. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.