James Burke, after distinguishing himself as a midshipman in the British merchant marine, rapidly rises to the rank of executive officer, second in command of a ship. A broken foot necessitates that he be put ashore to heal. After his recovery, the very proud Jim – his pride rooted in his competence, which had made him a highly respected and admired naval officer – signs on as the executive officer of the Patna, a rusty tub manned by a third-rate crew overseen by a barbarous captain, that is transporting a group of Moslem pilgrims to Mecca.
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