The movie “White Squall” takes place in the 1960s upon the schooner “Albatross”. Thirteen boys from across the United States were collectively brought together for an eight month stay upon the boat to be educated and hopefully find direction in their lives. Under the guidance of Christopher “Skipper” Sheldon and his wife Dr. Alice Sheldon, they travel to a variety of destinations throughout the Caribbean where they endure many arduous escapades, the greatest of which being their fight for survival against “The White Squall”. Similar, to the rules set up by “Skipper” to govern the society upon the boat, governments and leading officials establish laws in order to govern the populace within their countries. These laws are often monitored by a law enforcement system and consequences are regulated within a juridical structure. It can be argued that without these already established protocols we use to govern ourselves that society would crumble into a disarray of social chaos and crime. Thus Captain Skipper’s statement “If we don’t have order, we have nothing” holds validity and is demonstrated through the laws established on the boat and our society, their consequences and how these laws function in problematic situations on both the boat and in our world.
Throughout the course of the movie, Captain Skipper institutionalizes several rules to govern the boys aboard the boat. They often were put in place to correct problems which arose or to merely maintain what Skipper felt was a sense of control. However from an objective stance, many of these rules were established on the boat to maintain equality and ensure safety. The first of such rules, were “Every boy must swim”. In the movie, the boys are awoken from their beds and all of them made their way up to the deck of the boat, where they dived off the side of the boat into the water. Dean Preston, refused to take part in this morning ritual however was ensured by the ship’s first mate, Shay Jennings, that if he didn’t swim he would not be allowed to eat. The creation of this law upon the Albatross placed every boy within the same category; it proved that no boy in particular was above having to swim and in this sense that they were all equal. This egalitarianism was essential for the crew to collaborate as a team and respect one another. This simple law established on the boat alludes to many of the laws that we have established in our own societies to provide the same sense of equality such as “everyone is entitled to a fair and speedy trail”. Such laws create impartiality in society and allows for progress and cooperation, which might not exist with the absence of such laws. Next, another law introduced was “All boys must repeat given orders in unison”. During a scene on deck, Captain Skipper appears from his cabin and demands that the boys repeat Dr. Sheldon’s order to confirm they understood it and are capable of performing it. Without effective communication the crew would be unable to correctly maneuver or sail the ship and therefore unable to complete their voyage. Finally, the First Mate was required to know about everyone aboard the ship. After one of the boys is nearly struggled to death after falling from his position, Gil Martin is unable to help save him because of his blatant fear of climbing and heights. Shay is ridiculed by Captain Skippers for not knowing about Gil’s fear of climbing and he storms off the deck. Such a law indicates the importance of safety and order aboard the ship and how dangerous it can be in its absence. This once again parallels many laws which allow the government and other facilities to know extensive information about those living under their control. Though they may seem somewhat intrusive, such precautions are necessary to ensure order and safety of those living within our society and maintain order. However with the establishment of any law, in addition to maintaining and regulating them, there must also be consequences for those who choose to disobey them.
Many of the boys aboard the “Albatross” are dealing with their own “demons” and looking for direction in their life. This results in most of them being quite rebellious toward authority figures, such as Captain Skipper and defiant of their rules and orders. However the disobeying of such rules resulted in punishment which demonstrated to the boys and anyone in general, the necessity of order and prevented the repetition of similar disobedient behavior. To begin, the boys are left stranded on a tourism island because they don’t meet their curfew. On their first destination stop, the boys are told they are allowed to wonder the island, but must be back at the dock and ready to board the ship by 7:00pm. The boys forget and are left on the island for the night which results in a confrontation among them and having to sleep on the ground under a canoe. The point illustrated here by Captain Skipper is in the absence of punctuality and therefore stability in the crew, they are no longer needed to help maintain the boat because they are merely a burden. The punishment demonstrates how expendable the boys are if they refuse to conform to the order needed to run the boat. Second, Frank Beaumont shooting the dolphin results in his expulsion off the boat. During their voyage the boys encounter a dolphin and are intrigued to watch it swim alongside the boat, however Frank uses a harpoon gun to shoot the dolphin. The boys attempt to save the dolphin but Frank had punctured a lung and Captain Skipper must kill it with a sledge hammer. Captain Skipper is outraged by this action on Frank’s behalf and expels him from the boat, though he is begged by the crew and his wife to give Frank another chance. Captain Skipper’s contention is there are consequences to every action, even if he just “killed a fish” and they are unwavering. Though Frank was struggling with a conflict with this Father, Captain Skipper disregards this and shows Frank that he still has a responsibility to help maintain order on the boat. Allowing him back on the boat would only convey the mentality to the other boys that “If he can get away with it, why can’t I?” and would deteriorate the order on the boat. Finally, in our society, the lack of any punishment for any of our laws and only a merit system would prove to be a complete failure. Hypothetical situation, a man stabs and kills another man because he wouldn’t get out of his bus seat. The police arrive and using the merit system explain to him it is against the law to stab the other man and ask him not to do it again. The man agrees but continues to commit the crime though asked not to, and soon others realize this is an effective method to deal with people who don’t do what they want. Without any form of punishment for this kind of behavior, society cannot convey the brutality of certain immoral behavior and create the mutual census that it wrong to stab another individual simply because they will not move from your seat. By making an example of the murderer, others can understand the punishments associated with such a crime and will help to hinder them from committing a similar offense and to avoid similar repercussions. The creation of laws and punishments are usually theoretical aspects of the law, however their realistic implication and functionality in problematic situations demonstrate their effectiveness to maintain order and therefore progress and safety.
In the movie, there were several tribulations which arose during the crew’s voyage that required them to act in unison and to maintain as much order as possible; from the illegal boarding of their ship to a meteorological phenomenon. However, the boys’ conscientious decision to abide by order that Captain Skipper demanded allowed them to react effectively to problematic situations they faced. First, it allowed the crew to avoid the deportation of two of their crew members. During their sea voyage Cuba Officials locate and illegally board the “Albatross” in search of Cuban stowaways. The crew retrieves their passports, except for the chef, Girard Pascal, who does not have one and Tracy Lapchick, who lost his. During this very frustrating ordeal Skipper demands that the boys not act as “heroes” but as “boys” and to be completely cooperative in order to maintain control and order in the situation. If this order has not been obeyed it is likely that both Girard and Tracy would have been deported back to Cuba and made a bad situation, worst. Second, the ability to maintain some underlining form of order saved some of the crews’ lives during the “White Squall”. After the “White Squall” hit the boat the situation became almost completely chaotic and utterly disastrous. Nonetheless, the crew’s judgment to remain as a team and listen to the orders given by Captain Skipper may not have saved everyone life but definitely contributed to some of the crew surviving. Finally, this functioning of order and law is demonstrated in the diligent judgment made by many citizens on our own society to abide by the laws and maintain order. Many people, whether it be out of fear or respect abide by the law and by doing so help to preserve order; if a person knows it is illegal to shoplift, many will not because of its consequences and disruption it will cause in both their lives and those around them if they are caught. This process of acknowledgement allows for there to a majority of law abiding citizens and therefore allows for effective conflict resolution of situations that may interrupt this order and jeopardize other’s safety.
In conclusion, the boys upon the “Albatross” learned a great deal about themselves and those around them, whether or not they were conscious of it. Through the creation, consequences and implication of laws aboard their boat society it allowed them to explore the ramifications of their role in the society and the impact of their behavior. Though it could be argued that this boat of rebellious teenage boys bears no resemblance to our own society, there are many parallels between the two in terms of behavior, morality and overall cognizance of the statement “If we don’t have order, we have nothing”.
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