Is Obedience a strength or a weakness?

This is one for my compost heap. I’m working on a paper about obedience and these are three examples I want to incorporate into my discussion. So I’m putting them here so that I can access them when I’m ready for them.

The William Brown

Alexander Holmes was a Swedish-born sailor…At sea since his tenth birthday, the twenty-six-year old had a reputation for being a respectful seaman, a competent if uninspired fellow who followed commands without complaint. In the world of nineteenth-century sailing ships, this was high praise indeed. Sailors were not suppose to think or question but to simply to obey.

Tom Koch, The Wreck of the William Brown, p.25

After ordering his sailors in the longboat to all follow the mate’s order, and to do nothing without his consent, Harris called upon each crewman to individually acknowledge this instruction.

In the nineteenth century a man was his word, only as good as the promises he kept. Here, each had given his vow to the captain to accept Rhodes’s leadership without question. But Captain Harris’s instruction was important for a second reason. A seaman who disobeyed a captain’s explicit order faced corporal punishment or worse. Insubordination–questioning a superior’s command…for example–could earn the lash or keelhauling. To refuse an order was mutiny, pure and simple, and in those days mutiny was a capital offence. The offender could be immediately shot or hanged from a yardarm, on the captain’s order. When Captain Harris made each seaman individually promise to acknowledge Rhodes as their captain, he knew they would be doubly bound by both personal oaths and the impersonal laws of the sea.

Tom Koch, The Wreck of the William Brown, p.57

By about ten o’clock that night, the rain was falling steadily and the boat was filing with water in spite of the efforts of the passengers and sailors to keep it dry. At that moment Rhodes, who had taken a turn at bailing, gave it up, exclaiming, “This won’d do. Help me, God. Men, go to work.”

At first, none of the sailors responded to Rhodes’s order. The seas were not much higher than they had been at seven o’clock and the danger was little greater. Then “Some of the passengers cried out, about the same time, ‘The boat is sinking.’ ‘The plug’s out.’ ‘God have mercy o our souls.’ “Panic took hold. Exhausted and frustrated, Rhodes and the other crewmen did not hear the caution that “The plug’s out,” only the warning that “The boat is sinking.”

At that moment, Rhodes’s sole, dominating thought was that if only the boat could be lightened, it might be more seaworthy. “Men, you must go to work, or we shall all perish,” is what both passengers and crew remembered Rhodes saying.

Charlie Smith, Alexander William Holmes, Joseph Stetson, and the cook, Henry Murray, simply approached a male passenger, tapped him on the shoulder or grabbed his arms, told him it was time, and then pushed or threw him overboard into the sea.

Tom Koch, The Wreck of the William Brown, p.61-63

The Count of Monte Cristo

Well, then, only fulfil your promise of rescuing Peppino, and henceforward you shall receive not only devotion, but the most absolute obedience from myself and those under me that one human being can render to another.

“Have a care how far you pledge yourself, my good friend, for I may remind you of your promise at some, perhaps, not very distant period, when I, in my turn, may require your aid and influence.” “Let that day come sooner or later, your excellency will find me what I have found you in this my heavy trouble; and if from the other end of the world you but write me word to do such or such a thing, you may regard it as done, for done it shall be, on the word and faith of” — “Hush!” interrupted the stranger; “I hear a noise.”

The Count of Monte Cristo, Dragon Classics, 2020 Edition

“Well, if you can save Peppino, it will be more than devotion from now on, it will be obedience.

Careful what you are saying, my good friend! I may perhaps remind you of this one day, because the day may come when I shall need you in my turn…

Well, then, Excellency, you will find me in your hour of need as I found you at this moment. Even if you should be in the other end of the earth, you have only to write to me: Do this!, and I shall do it, by my…

Hush! the other man said, I can hear something.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Penguin Classics, Translated by Robin Buss

Well then only fulfill your promise of rescuing Peppino and hence forward you shall receive not only devoutness but the most absolute obedience from myself and those under me, that one human being can render to another.

Have a care how far you pledge yourself my good friend, for I may remind you of your promises at some perhaps not very distant period when I in my turn may require your aid and influence.

Let that day come soon or late, your Excellency will find me what I have found you in this my heavy trouble. And if from the other end of the world you but write me word to do Such or such a thing, conclude it done, for done it shall be on the word and faith of the..

Hush! Interrupted the stranger. I hear a noise.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Blackstone Audio, Read by John Lee

Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly

The camp doctors are especially at risk. As a group, you show a deep respect for authority. You accept, even crave, the status quo.

Lilac Girls, p. 263