Willie Keith in Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny "

Essay by cooriderHigh School, 11th gradeD+, November 1996

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Willie Keith: A Life Changed

Sometimes it takes an event in one's life to change a person. In Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny, it took the navy to change the life of Willie Keith.

Before Willie joined the navy he was living the easy life. His mother came from a wealthy family so Willie had no problems financially. He never really took anything seriously. He didn't even take Princeton seriously. 'But his real career at Princeton had consisted of playing the piano and inventing bright little songs for parties and shows.' Willie just took everything he had for granted. When he graduated from Princeton he probably could have gotten a pretty good job or gone on to earn his master's degree. Instead, he elected to become a piano player in a cocktail lounge. 'He was not paid much. The fee was, in fact, the smallest permitted by the musicians union for a piano player.

Willie didn't really care, so long as fifty-dollar bills flowed from his mother.' That was his life before the navy. In the navy, all of that changed.

Once in the navy he learned that he couldn't really rely on his mother for everything. He was still careless and naïve about some things but he did learn that he was on his own. At Furnand Hall he had received 48 demerits and was almost expelled. Willie then had to push himself to be on top of everything. The 48 demerits were not just going to go away and he couldn't have his mother do something about it. Willie had to be the one to get himself out of the mess he had created. Even when his father came to tell Willie that he could probably get him transferred to the army Willie said, 'Will you...