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Life in the Navy: Past and Present

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Lieutenant Willis Steward Keith, the last captain of the Caine, says, “Every hour spent on the Caine was a great hour in all our lives –– if you don’t think so now you will later on, more and more” in Herman Wouk’s novel, The Caine Mutiny (526-527). This novel is the story of the life of a young man, Willie Keith, and his career in the United States Navy. The novel is set during World War II, a time of great struggle and hardship for Americans. The life of a naval officer in the World War II era, as portrayed in The Caine Mutiny, had many hardships, some similar to those experienced by present-day naval officers and some different.

Willie Keith begins his naval career by being constantly on the move. From the east coast, to the west coast, to Hawaii, and finally to the Caine, Keith moves from place to place even before his true naval career begins. Due to the drastic reduction of jobs during the Great Depression, many people joined the military to achieve financial security (Bernatitus). The economic climate of the nation was very unstable at the time, even in the military. As a result of this instability, morale of the servicemen diminished incrementally. Another cause of low morale was the incessant feeling of danger, especially for those on vessels in a combat theater. Scientists and researchers, who allowed wartime science and technology to advance rapidly, reduced this feeling of danger (Brinkley 746). To increase morale, the United Service Organizations provided servicemen with leisure activities and shows conducted by women (Brinkley 753). For many servicemen, their loved ones met them when they were in port. May Wynn, Keith’s significant other, often meets up with Keith at the ports where he stops. This causes her to in...

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