Short summary - The Island - Robert Merle

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Island
Robert Merle

The plot is based on a real event - a mutiny in the English brig "Bounty" (first half of the 18th century).

The boundless waters of the Pacific Ocean. Handsome "Blossom" is rapidly flying over the waves. The third mate Adam Parcel admires the ship, but at the sight of the exhausted sailors, he becomes ashamed that he is well dressed and has a hearty lunch. The team is completely hunted by Captain Bart.

Continued after commercial:

Boatswain Boswell watches the deck clean up. There are guys in the outfit who can stir up the entire crew: first of all, the Scotsman McLeod, the Welshman Baker and the half-breed White. Boy Jimmy comes out of the galley with a bucket of dirty water. Not noticing the appearance of the captain, he pours water against the wind, and a few drops fall on Bart's coat. The captain brings down his mighty fist at the boy - the cabin boy falls dead. Further events develop rapidly. Baker does not seem to hear Bart's order to throw the body overboard, and Parcel asks permission to read the prayer. First Mate Richard Mason, who was the cabin boy's nephew, shoots Bart. Giant Hunt, having received an undeserved blow with a molt, breaks the boatswain's neck. MacLeod cracks down on second mate John Simon, who tried to take over the ship.

The rebels are not allowed to return to their homeland. They sail to Tahiti to stock up on water and food. But English ships come here too often, and Mason offers to settle on an island lost in the ocean. Soon, Parcel brings a list of nine volunteers. Each has its own reasons. Mason, McLeod, and Hunt are facing a noose for murder at home. Parcel and Baker entered into an open conflict with Bart, which under the circumstances does not bode well. Young Jones is ready to go to the ends of the world for Baker, and shorty Smadge is ready for MacLeod. Yellow-faced White fears retribution for old sins: once he stabbed a man. Only the motives of Johnson, the oldest of the sailors, are not quite clear. It is later revealed that he went sailing, fleeing from the shrew-wife.

Parcel has been to Tahiti before. He knows the language and customs of the good islanders well. In turn, the Tahitians love "Adamo" with all their hearts, and their leader Otu proudly calls himself his friend. Parcel is greeted with glee: the lieutenant goes from hug to hug, and Mason really does not like it. However, he willingly accepts help from the “blacks”. Six Tahitians and twelve Tahitian women agree to resettlement. But Mason refuses to take three more women on board - which means that some of the colonists will be left without a pair. Lieutenant Parcel is not threatened by this: the golden-haired slender "Peritani" (the British in the language of the Tahitians who do not pronounce the letter "b") is passionately in love with the dark-skinned beauty Ivoa, the daughter of Otu. Their wedding takes place on the ship. Soon, other sympathetic alliances arise: the huge Omaata becomes Hunt's girlfriend, the pretty Avapui chooses Baker, the young Amurea is imbued with ardent feelings for young Jones. The lovely Itia is openly flirting with Parcel. The lieutenant shyly rejects her advances, which amuses the other women very much - according to their concepts, a fleeting love "game" can in no way be considered a betrayal of a lawful wife. Good relations deteriorate during a sea storm: the Tahitians, unaccustomed to the storm, are huddled in the hold, and the sailors think that the "black" have betrayed them. When an island appears on the horizon, Mason offers to exterminate the natives, if any. To this end, the "captain" teaches the Tahitians to shoot a gun. Fortunately, the island turns out to be uninhabited. Brother Ivoa Meani immediately notices its main drawback: the only source of fresh water is too far from a place suitable for habitation.

Continued after ad:

Colonists begin to settle down on the island. The Tahitians live in one hut, the British prefer to live separately. The sailors cancel their officer ranks. Power on the island passes to the assembly, where all decisions are made by a majority vote. Despite Parcel's objections, blacks are not invited to parliament. The lieutenant is amazed to be convinced that MacLeod has the makings of a remarkable demagogue: Hunt supports him out of stupidity, Johnson out of fear, Smadge out of malice, and White out of misunderstanding. Insulted to the depths of his soul, Mason is removed from everyone by his grandfather. MacLeod has a solid majority, while Parcel represents a powerless opposition - supported only by Baker and Jones.

The sailors do not want to take into account the interests of the Tahitians in the division of women. However, here MacLeod lies in wait for failure: challenging Baker, he demands Avapui for himself, but the Tahitian woman immediately rushes into the forest. Baker is ready to throw himself at the Scotsman with a knife, and Parsed with great difficulty manages to stop him. Then Itia escapes into the forest, not wanting to get to White. When the shorty Smadge declares that he does not recognize Parcel's marriage to Ivoa as legal, the mighty Omaata gives the "rat" a few slaps in the face. Mason, to Parcel's great indignation, sends a note to the assembly asking him to provide him with a woman to run the house, and in this matter MacLeod willingly goes to meet the former captain - as Parcel suspects, the Scotsman just wants to put the "blacks" in their place. When Parcel arrives at the Tahitian hut to apologize, he is not well received. Ivoa explains to her husband that Meani loves him as before, but the others consider him an apostate. Tetahiti, recognized as a leader by seniority, shares this opinion.

The next vote almost ends with execution. When the sailors decide to burn the Blossom, Mason tries to shoot MacLeod. The enraged Scotsman offers to hang him, but at the sight of the noose, the thoughtless Hunt suddenly demands to remove "this dirty trick". Parcel wins his first parliamentary victory, but his joy does not last long: the sailors begin to divide the land, once again excluding the Tahitians from the list. In vain, Parcel begs not to inflict such an insult on them - in Tahiti the most seedy people have at least a kindergarten. Most do not want to listen to him, and then Parcel announces his withdrawal from the assembly - followed by Baker and Jones. They offer the Tahitians their three plots, but Tetahiti refuses, considering such a section shameful - in his opinion, justice must be fought for. Parcel does not want to take on the sin of fratricide, and Baker cannot make decisions without knowing the language. In addition, the observant Welshman noticed that Ohu was jealous of Amureya for Ropati (Robert Jones) and willingly listens to the words of Timi - the most vicious and hostile of the Tahitians.

McLeod also understands that war is imminent. He kills two unarmed men, and the rest instantly disappear into the thickets. Parcel bitterly says that the British will have to pay dearly for this - MacLeod has a poor idea of what the Tahitian warriors are capable of. The formerly peaceful island becomes deadly. The Tahitians, after setting up an ambush at the source, kill Hunt, Johnson, White and Jones, who went to fetch water. Baker and Amureya now only think of revenge for Ropati - together they hunt down and kill Oha. Then the women tell Parcel that Baker was shot on the spot, and that Amureya was hung by the legs and ripped open by the stomach - this was done by Timi.

In the face of a common enemy, Mason reconciles with MacLeod and demands that Parcel be tried for "betrayal." But the frightened Smadge votes against the shooting, and MacLeod declares that he does not wish the lieutenant any harm - in fact, the best times on the island were those when the "Archangel Gabriel" was in opposition.

Parcel tries to negotiate with the Tahitians. Timi calls to kill him. Tetahiti hesitates, and Meani is furious: how dare this pig brat encroach on the life of his friend, the son-in-law of the great leader Otu? The women hide Parcel in a cave, but Timi tracks him down - then Parcel for the first time raises his hand against a man. In the last battle, the surviving British and Parcel Meani's best friend are killed. Pregnant Ivoa, hiding in the forest with a gun, orders to tell Tetahiti that she will kill him if even a hair falls from her husband's head.

While there are lengthy negotiations between the women and Tetahiti, Parcel indulges in bitter reflections: not wanting to shed blood, he killed his friends. If he had sided with the Tahitians after the first murder, he could have saved Baker, Jones, Hunt - perhaps even Johnson and White.

Tetahiti promises not to kill Parcel, but demands that he leave the island, since he no longer wants to deal with the deceitful, insidious "peritani". Parcel asks for an extension until the baby is born. Soon little Ropati is born, and this becomes a huge event for the entire colony - even Tetahiti comes to admire the baby. And women hypocritically pity the "old" leader: he is already thirty years old - he will overstrain with his wives. Having exhausted the theme of the inevitable death of Tetahiti, the women start another song: the Tahitians are too black, the peritani are too pale, and only Ropati has the right skin - if Adamo leaves, no one will have golden children. Tetahiti listens unperturbed, but eventually breaks down and invites Parcel to try out the boat. They go out to sea together. The Tahitian asks what Adamo will do if the Peritani land on the island. Parcel answers without hesitation that he will defend freedom with arms in hand.

The weather suddenly deteriorates - a terrible storm begins. Tetahiti and Parcel side by side fight the elements, but cannot find an island in pitch darkness. And then a bright fire breaks out on the rock - it was the women who kindled a fire. Once on the shore, Parcel loses sight of Tetahiti. With their last strength, they seek and find each other. There are no more enemies on the island.