Mutiny on the Bounty

by Charles Nordhoff
Series: The Mutiny on the Bounty Trilogy #1
400 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Jeanne

A fascinating novel based on the mutiny on the Bounty; contains some sexual and violent content.


Note: Co-authored by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.

The mutiny on the British ship 'Bounty' is one of the most famous in history. This novel portrays the mutiny through the eyes of fictional midshipman Roger Byam, who narrates the events of the 'Bounty's' trip to Tahiti and the feud between Captain Bligh and first mate Fletcher Christian that eventually led to mutiny.


Bligh's command of the 'Bounty' is a tyrannical and unjust one, making the mutiny of many of the officers and men understandable, though not condonable. Many of the men side with Bligh purely out of loyalty. The harshness of courtmartials at that time is portrayed, as well as the various characters of ship captains (some of whom were kind, and many of whom were not). Two of Byam's fellow midshipmen are self-centered and give false and condemning evidence at the courtmartial.

Spiritual Content

One of the men carries his Bible with him always and reads aloud from it. God is mentioned a few times, and there are several places where Byam questions whether the future is ruled by arbitrary fate or by God; he seems to lean toward the former choice. The religion of the Tahitian Indians is portrayed during a marriage ceremony, and their gods are mentioned.


Floggings are frequent under Captain Bligh; the flogging of a dead man is portrayed graphically. Some men are killed by Indians in the South Sea. During the mutiny, many of the men propose killing Bligh. Mutineers are later put in chains and treated badly. Three men are hanged. The custom of Tahitian women to cut themselves as a sign of either joy or grief is shown, and infanticide and human sacrifice is mentioned as Tahitian traditions. Several people are shot, some in cold blood; a man is clubbed over the head and thus killed.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine and grog were the principal beverages on shipboard and are often mentioned. The 'Bounty's' surgeon is frequently drunk, and drunkenness appears here and there during the voyage.

Sexual Content

The Tahitian women do not wear shirts, and their bodies are rather graphically described. Byam observes a dance that is not at all decent. Most of the seamen obtain "girlfriends" upon their arrival in Tahiti, while a few actually take wives. Byam meets his future wife, Tehani, while swimming, and the scene is not very decent.

Towards the end of the novel Byam briefly considers that of the men on the Bounty, he knows of only one who is always faithful to his English wife back home, and this man's behavior is portrayed as highly estimable.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Many of the seamen and officers swear. D*mn, bl****, and b****** are used, and God's name is frequently taken in vain.


"Mutiny on the Bounty" is a fascinating true story, and the way it was written (in the first person) was very well done. Since the events of the mutiny were well documented, the authors had plenty of historical facts to base their novel off of, and the story is well-grounded in fact. The courtmartial is especially nerve-wracking. Not all the scenes on Tahiti are entirely clean, but can be skipped. All in all, it is a melancholy tale, but a well-written one.

Fun Score: 4
Values Score: 3
Written for Age: adult

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