George Crane 's The, The Open Boat, By Stephen Crane
983 Words4 Pages
“A man said to the universe: Sir, I exist! However, replied the universe, this fact has not created in me a sense of obligation” (Stephen Crane). Crane’s immortal words perhaps perfectly encapsulate the true message of naturalism, a literary philosophy in which nature is a cold and foreboding presence for which a mere ant and intelligent human being are one and the same. This revelation began in the late nineteenth century after the idea of realism had outgrown itself. Prominent authors such as Jack London and Stephen Crane were publishing stories and novels with the overarching theme of nature’s indifference toward man. Two of their most famous works, London’s “To Build A Fire” and Crane’s “The Open Boat,” were both about men who tried to make themselves bigger than nature to no avail. The themes of naturalism that are prominent in these two stories also influenced later works, such as Joe Carnaghan’s film The Grey. In The Grey, it is once again seen that nature is warning man against trying to win against it. This is not, however, the only unifying aspect of these three works. In all the studied works, nature’s indifference to man shows us that the grand scheme of nature doesn’t care about everything that the human race has accomplished, to it; every man is one and the same.
The first instance of nature’s callousness towards man’s life can be seen in the short story “To Build A Fire.” The main character is traveling along a frozen river in the cold Yukon Territory. The protagonist, as the narrator remarks, is a shortsighted man who “was quick and alert in the things of life, but only the things, and not in the significances” (London 651), and is instead wrapped up in him-self. His ego is so large that he even ignores the very ...
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...k about who or what they are killing. The wolves and nature cannot be moved to sympathy by noticing the achievements of the men they are killing.
All of these stories portray one very important message: nature is a formidable force to which all of humankind is the same. Of course, every man and woman in the world would like to think differently, to think that perhaps he or she is in some way significant to this universe. But the truth of the matter is that everyone is insignificant on the larger scale. To nature, we are the same as the trees, as the rivers, as the mountains. Perhaps, then, these stories are saying something much larger than we can understand. Survival is tough, but perhaps the difficulties should be embraced, for though we are nothing in the eyes of the universe, it is possible to fulfill even the measly purpose that we are put on Earth for.