Man and Nature in Stephen Crane's The Blue Hotel and The Open Boat

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Man and Nature in The Blue Hotel and The Open Boat

Stephen Crane uses a massive, ominous stove, sprawled out in a tiny room and burning with "god-like violence," as a principal metaphor to communicate his interpretation of the world. Full of nearly restrained energy, the torrid stove is a symbol of the burning, potentially eruptive earth to which humans "cling" and of which they are a part. As a literary naturalist, Crane interpreted reality from a Darwinian perspective, and saw the earth driven by adamant natural laws, violent and powerful laws which are often hostile to humans and their societies, and he conceived of humans as accidents, inhabiting a harsh, irrational, dangerous world. Crane's famous depiction of the world is this: It is "a whirling, fire-smote, ice-locked, disease-stricken, space-lost bulb" (Crane 783). With two of his short stories, "The Blue Hotel" and "The Open Boat," Crane explores how humans react when the stove bursts and natural flames blaze furiously; Crane sets two different groups of men into situations in which the laws of nature are against them. The natural laws that govern the weather and the ocean storm against a group of men who are trying, albeit in an exhausted dinghy, to make the coast of Florida in the story "The Open Boat." In "The Blue Hotel," the animalistic laws that determine human behavior birth chaos among a group of strangers. One can readily see both similarities and differences in the reactions of the two groups of men to the world. That, in both stories, both groups of men are shocked and yet charmed by the violence of nature is an essential similarity; that in one story the men work together to save one another and in the other story the men beat ...

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...red A. Knopf Inc., 1992.

Crane, Stephen. "The Open Boat." The University of Virginia Edition of the Works of Stephen Crane: Volume V, Tales of Adventure. Ed. Fredson Bowers. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1970.

Gerstenberger, Donna. "'The Open Boat': An Additional Perspective." Modern Fiction Studies 17 (1971-72):557-561.

Gibson, William M., ed. The Red Badge of Courage and Selected Prose and Poetry by Stephen Crane. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1950.

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Johnson, Paul. Modern Times, The World from the Twenties to the Eighties. New York: Harper Colophon Books, Harper and Row Publishers, 1983.

Kent, Thomas L "The Problem of Knowledge in'The Open Boat'and 'The Blue Hotel." American Literary Realism 14 (1981): 262-268.

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