No Bricks and No Temples: Coping with Crisis in “The Open Boat” Stephen Crane’s story “The Open Boat” concerns four people who are trying to reach land after surviving a shipwreck off of the Florida coast. During the course of the story, they face dangers that are real physical threats, but they also have to deal with trying to make sense of their situation. The characters in this story cope with their struggles in two ways: individually, they each imagine that Nature, or Fate, or God, is behind their experiences, which allows them to blame some outside force for their struggle, and together, they form a bond of friendship that helps them keep their spirits up. .
American author, Stephen Crane often wrote about different predicaments that his fellow men encounters. “The Open Boat” is a fictional account of his experience as a correspondent shipwrecked while on expedition to the Cuban revolutionaries in 1897 (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/stephen-crane) where he spent over 30 hours on a life boat with three other passengers. This realistic story depicts how four men are forced onto a 10 foot dingy after their ship sinks. Crane takes a realist approach when describing the natural elements such as unsettling winds and the raging seas which represent the uncaring and unforgiving nature of life. Clearly, Crane narrates the role as the correspondent, while he provides dialog to provide an understanding on how the other passengers are feeling. “The Open Boat” demonstrates that man cannot survive the natural elements and hardships while isolated in the sea without an understanding of nature.
Pike, Gerald. “Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of Short Fiction Writers.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas Votteler. Vol. 6. Detroit: Gale Research International Limited, 1990. 90. Print.
Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” has long been acclaimed as a fascinating exemplar of Naturalism, generating many studies that range from the indifference of Nature to the “psychological growth of the men through the experience” (466). The psychological growth happens to every man on the boat, yet is mostly depicted through the voice of the Correspondent and in the form of his questioning and contemplating their desperate situation. Being a correspondent, who is innately able as well as inclined to interpret and communicate ideas, the Correspondent is singled out to articulate the mind of his three fellowmen and of Stephen Crane himself, should the story be seen partly as a journalistic account of his own adventure. Therefore throughout the story, the Correspondent takes the mediating role between the men and the outside world, combines a spokesperson with an interlocutor, and reflects the men’s growing awareness to the indifference of Nature.
The “Open Boat” and “A Mystery of Heroism” are both fantastic displays of Stephen Crane’s mastery with naturalism. The first depicts the struggles of four men trying to survive the open ocean, the latter a commentary on the obscure requirements of heroism. Both stories shared similar characterization by letting the reader decipher the protagonist through their actions and thoughts. The themes of the two stories differed, one emphasizing the indifference of nature and the other musing the ambiguity of what constitutes a hero. The conflicts also shared a likeness, with the power of repetitive nature of waves connecting to the force and persistence of artillery fire. The values of the stories still hold prevalent to modern society. Wars still rage on, many heroes are lost and forgotten, and nature still holds her unrelenting grasp on human complexion.
“The Open Boat”, it recounts of four men shipwrecked and they're now stuck on the ocean in a ten foot dinghy. They can't do anything about their position as the sea had decided their destiny by demolishing the ship they were on and now they are stuck in a small boat moving on the broken waves. The story “The Open Boat” has four characters: the cook, the captain, the correspondent (who is based on Crane himself), and Billy Higgins, the oiler. While the point of view is 3rd person, the focus is mostly on the correspondent. Talking about the ocean, which they watch obsessively, he says, “ A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats (604). He doesn’t say, “Every minute we almost drowned!!!!”
In the short story “ The Open Boat,” by Stephen Crane, Crane does an outstanding job creating descriptive images throughout the entire story. With saying this, Crane uses symbolism along with strong imagery to provide the reader with a fun and exciting story about four guys who 's fight was against nature and themselves. Starting early in the book, Crane creates a story line that has four men in a great amount of trouble in the open waters of the ocean. Going into great detail about natures fierce and powerful body of water, Crane makes it obvious that nature has no empathy for the human race. In this story, Crane shows the continuous fight that the four men have to endure in able to beat natures strongest body of water. It 's not just nature the men have to worry about though, its the ability to work together in order to win this fight against nature. Ultimately, Crane is able to use this story, along with its vast imagery and symbolism to compare the struggle between the human race and all of natures uncertainties.
Stephen Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat” speaks directly to Jack London’s own story, “To Build A Fire” in their applications of naturalism and views on humanity. Both writers are pessimistic in their views of humanity and are acutely aware of the natural world. The representations of their characters show humans who believe that they are strong and can ably survive, but these characters many times overestimate themselves which can lead to an understanding of their own mortality as they face down death.
Baker, Houston A., Jr. and Pierce-Baker, Charlotte. Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas Votteler. Vol. 5. Gale Research Inc.: Detroit, MI,1990. 402.
“Short Stories." Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena Krstovic. Vol. 127. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010. 125-388. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. VALE - Mercer County Community College. 28 February 2014