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Charles Stewart, the "Pilgrim" owner's playboy son, finds himself shanghaied on his father's ship commanded by cruel Captain Thompson. When scurvy breaks out he leads a mutiny and is slapped in irons. Floggings and torture abound. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As a lurid melodrama I suppose that this is OK,provided that you do not take it seriously.It may seem'realistic" because it is so grim and gritty, but it will not stand up to close examination.The producers were shamelessly trading on the reputation of one of the greatest books about the sea for a contrived soap opera. It would have been far more honest to make up their own title.
Virtually nothing about the movie bears the slightest resemblance to the book. I saw the movie,and have read the book several times. It is a great account full of details, very well written which deserves repeated readings, to get the most out of it.Seeing the movie once was quite enough.The only real characters were Captain Thompson, and Dana himself, who is of course the narrator of the book which is the true account of his own experiences.The real Dana actually was more like the fictitious Stewart than the ordinary seaman he is in the movie. He was from an upper class family, and a student at Harvard who was making this trip to "toughen up" and repair his health.The part about his brother dying from abuse as a seaman was total fiction.The real Captain Thompson was a hard and sometimes brutal man, who abused his authority by flogging two seamen without just cause,although apparently it was a case of loosing his temper. Apparently he secretly regretted it, because later he controlled his temper under much more trying circumstances,and even refrained from flogging the carpenter after he had urged the mate to seize command from the captain.Flogging was apparently much rarer than legend has it;when the ship arrived in California, and word of the flogging spread among the other ships in the hider trade,the seamen on the other ships at first thought it was a joke, and then were very shocked and surprised when they found out that it actually happened, indicating that it was far from normal.Thompson and the "Pilgrim" rapidly got a very bad reputation.The scurvy incident, intended to show the callousness of the captain, actually, if it had happened, would indicate that he was insane.No captain would have done that.Regardless of his lack of humanity, he needed the crew to work the ship,and scurvy would render them helpless.In fact, scurvy did strike during the trip home, and the captain desperately sought out any ship that had fresh provisions, which he found.
Actually, Dana was not trying to lessen the authority of the captain in law.He didn't even want to remove his right to flog disobedient seamen;he said that if he ever went to see as a captain, he would want to have the authority to flog,though he would hope that he would never have to use it, because of the unruly elements represented among common seamen.He felt that it was essential as a constant threat to maintain discipline He did say that captains should be held accountable for abuse of their authority,and that courts were far too lenient on ones convicted of abuse.In the book he said that at the time of the floggings he swore to bring Thompson to justice;whether he actually did or not is unclear.His family was friendly with the senior partner of the firm that operated the ships he sailed on in the California hide trade.
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