The Open Boat by Stephen Crane Essays

The Open Boat by Stephen Crane Essays

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In the story "The Open Boat," by Stephen Crane, Crane uses many literary techniques to convey the stories overall theme. The story is centered on four men: a cook, a correspondent, Billie, an oiler who is the only character named in the story, and a captain. They are stranded in a lifeboat in stormy seas just off the coast of Florida, just after their ship has sunk. Although they can eventually see the shore, the waves are so big that it is too dangerous to try to take the boat in to land. Instead, the men are forced to take the boat further out to sea, where the waves are not quite as big and dangerous. They spend the night in the lifeboat and take turns rowing and then resting. In the morning, the men are weak and exhausted. The captain decides that they must try to take the lifeboat as close to shore as possible and then be ready to swim when the surf inevitably turns the boat over and throws the men into the cold sea. As they get closer to land a big wave comes and all the men are thrown into the sea. The lifeboat turns over and the four men must swim into shore. There are rescuers waiting on shore who help the men out of the water. Strangely, as the cook, captain and correspondent reach the shore safely and are helped out of the water, they discover that, somehow, the oiler has drowned after being smashed in the surf by a huge wave. (255-270) “The Open Boat’s” main theme deals with a character’s seemingly insignificant life struggle against nature’s indifference. Crane expresses this theme through a suspenseful tone, creative point of view, and a mix of irony.

Crane draws his readers into the story with tone by placing the reader into the same frame of reference as the characters. In "The Open Boat", the beginning focuse...


... middle of paper ...


... point of view, and irony. Crane use these techniques to guide the reader in the course of the struggles, both internally and externally, of mans great endeavor against nature. The tone sets the suspense of the story by building the impending doom upon the crew. The stories point of view allows the reader to gradually understand and expect the indifference of nature upon people’s lives. The reality of nature is expressed through the use of different kinds of irony. The universe is represented by the power of the ocean, and the small boat in this ocean is symbolic of man in this giant universe. The immaculate power of the ocean is very indifferent to the small boat, just as our great universe could not care less for man.




Works Cited

Booth, Alison, and Kelly J. Mays. The Norton Introduction to Literature.
Shorter Tenth Edition. New York: Norton, 2010.

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