Analysis of Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat"

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Stephen Crane’s short story “The Open Boat” is a story of conflict with nature and the human will and fight to survive. Four men find themselves clinging to life on a small boat amidst a raging sea after being shipwrecked. The four men, the oiler (Billie), the injured captain, the cook, and the correspondent are each in their own way battling the sea as each wave crest threatens to topple the dinghy. “The Open Boat” reflects human nature’s incredible ability to persevere under life-and-death situations, but it also shares a story of tragedy with the death of the oiler. It is human nature to form a brotherhood with fellow sufferers in times of life threatening situations to aid in survival. Weak from hunger and fatigue, the stranded men work together as a community against nature to survive their plight and the merciless waves threatening to overtake the boat. The brotherhood bond shared between the men in “The Open Boat” is evident through the narrator’s perspective, “It would be difficult to describe the subtle brotherhood of men that was here established on the seas. No one said that it was so. No one mentioned it. But it dwelt in the boat, and each man felt it warm him” (Crane 993). Crane understood first-hand the struggle and the reliance on others having survived the real life shipwreck of the S.S. Commodore off the coast of Florida in 1897. “The Open Boat” is an intriguing read due to Crane’s personal experience and though it is a fictional piece it shares insight into the human mind. Crain did not simply retell a story, but by sharing the struggles with each character he sought to portray the theme of an inner struggle with nature by using the literary devices of personification of nature, symbolism of the boat, and iron...

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...held him in the sea that swirled him out and safely over the boat to water in which he could touch. The surviving men were thankful to have survived, but learned that they really had no control over their lives. One of the most important lessons the correspondent took from the experience was, “… that “in the ignorance of the grave-edge” every man is in the same boat, which is not much more substantial than the ten-foot open dinghy on a rough sea” (Buitenhuis, web). Having survived the experience the cook, the correspondent, and the captain each believed that they could be interpreters for the sea. Crane gave each man a voice in “The Open Boat” that is uniquely theirs, but at the same time shared a common bond and struggle with nature for survival. It is up to each man (mankind) to find our own place in the universe and be open to the lessons that life can teach us.

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