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Two Years Before the Mast (1946) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot Summary

  • 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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>
  • Charles the dissolute, hedonistic son of wealthy shipping owner, Gordon Stewart, is pressganged into service aboard one of his father's ships, 'The Pilgrim', after a fight in a bar. Proud and aloof initially, Charles is soon ostracized by his fellow shipmates. However, as the voyage continues Charles experiences the desperate privations suffered by the crew and witnesses the wanton brutality handed down by the Draconian ship's master Captain Francis Thompson, he starts to identify with the crew. Befriended by the novelist Richard Henry Dana, working undercover to discover what happened to his brother on the Pilgrim's previous voyage, Charles eventually becomes part of the crew. Together the two men keep the crew in line in the face of ever decreasing rations, an outbreak of Scurvy and vicious punishments exacted with great zeal by the ship's first mate, Amazeen. Starving and pushed well beyond breaking point, the crew mutinies and kills the Captain. Returning to port, armed with Dana's novel, fearing they could be hanged the crew throw themselves on the mercy of the U.S. Senate to highlight the plight of sailors on merchant ships at sea in the hope of effecting changes.

    - Written by Mark Smith <msmith@osi.co.uk>

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