Choices and Responsibility in London's To Build a Fire and Crane's The Open Boat

Choices and Responsibility in London's To Build a Fire and Crane's The Open Boat

Length: 1644 words (4.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Choices and Responsibility in London's To Build a Fire and Crane's The Open Boat


Naturalism portrays humans' control over their actions and fate as limited and determined by the natural world, including their very humanity. The freedom described by Jean-Paul Sartre results in all individuals having the ability to make present choices independently. Despite the fatalism illustrated in naturalism, the characters in London's 'To Build a Fire' and Crane's 'The Open Boat' are ultimately responsible for their choices and consequences of their choices.

In 'To Build a Fire,' the man's antagonist is nature: London displays the man's journey as restricted by external forces. First, the temperature of the tundra is seventy-five-below zero (978), which naturally exposes the man?s ?frailty as a creature of temperature? (977). Obviously the man is subject to the forces of winter, and can not change his homeostasis as a warm-blooded animal. Similarly, London employs the ?traps? (979) of snow-covered pools of water to show that while humans may presume we are invincible, nature will stealthily remind us of our vulnerability (through invisible germs, for example). Just as the man does not see the ?trap? (981) that soaks his legs, he fails to notice the dog?s apprehension regarding their journey (981). Here London shows man's self-proclaimed superiority is falsely assumed, as he lacks the ?instinct? (978) that the dog possess; later, the man can not kill the dog (985), which signifies the dog is not subordinate regarding survival. After the man steps in the water, London notes, ?He was angry, and cursed his luck aloud? (981). By attributing his misfortune to ?luck,? the man relieves himself of responsibility, recognizing himself as a victi...


... middle of paper ...


...ependent of anything, including fellow humans, that would influence his decision regarding survival. Sartre would explain that this man dies stuck in a mode of pre-reflective consciousness because of his solitude: the man can not see his mortality until he imagines himself looking at his frozen body with his children (987). A similar irony is seen when Crane's men curse the vision of those attending the fictitious life-saving station; saying, ?They must have seen us by now,? (909) the men do not see that they alone are responsible for their survival.

Works Cited

Crane, Stephen. "The Open Boat." The Harper American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade et al. 2nd ed. 2 Vols. New York: Longman, 1993.

London, Jack. "To Build a Fire." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 7th edition. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York, NY: Longman, 1999.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Open Boat By Stephen Crane Essay

- 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....   [tags: The Open Boat, Stephen Crane, Man]

Powerful Essays
1578 words (4.5 pages)

Analysis Of Stephen Crane 's ' The Open Boat ' Essay

- Analysis of “The Open Boat” In 1897 acclaimed writer Stephen Crane boarded a freighter commissioned to smuggle weapons and munitions to Cuba; he was to document the journey, but quickly after departure, the freighter sank. The literary classic "The Open Boat", which Crane penned after surviving this disaster, had nothing to do with the intended purpose of the voyage, but instead focused on the will of man versus nature and is the greatest short story of Naturalistic literature. Protagonists carry a great significance in Naturalism( )....   [tags: The Open Boat, Stephen Crane, Nature]

Powerful Essays
805 words (2.3 pages)

Essay on The Open Boat By Stephen Crane

- 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....   [tags: The Open Boat, Stephen Crane, Nature, Man]

Powerful Essays
701 words (2 pages)

Essay on The Open Boat By Stephen Crane

- “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane There are many inspiring literary works from the short stories, plays and poems but there is one in particular that will have a lasting and profound effect on my perspective concerning the strength and determination of mankind, “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane. Crane presents the epic battle of man against nature with such vivid imagery that it ignites the imagination. It is an attribute of mankind to seek supremacy against each other, fate and nature itself, as can be seen in this short story....   [tags: The Open Boat, Stephen Crane, Man, Perception]

Powerful Essays
724 words (2.1 pages)

Essay about The Open Boat By Stephen Crane

- Never rely on others “Don’t depend too much on anyone in this world. Because even your shadow leaves you when you’re in darkness” (lbn Taymiyyah). The idea of this quote may seem ridiculous to some people that do not depend on anyone, because in this world, people have too many families and friends that we can rely on. However there are some situations that our friends and families cannot help up out. Like in the story “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane, tells a story about four men-a captain, a cook, an oiler, and a correspondent who float in an open boat over the sea....   [tags: The Open Boat, Stephen Crane, Help me, A Story]

Powerful Essays
842 words (2.4 pages)

An Analysis Of Stephen Crane 's ' The Open Boat ' Essay

- A Mysterious Treasure Hidden in “The Open Boat" A tone readers clearly find in “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane, is loneliness. That particular tone is easily seen when; a group of four men are in a ten foot dinghy with nothing to either their north, south, east, or west except the water around their position. “The men seem to recognize that they are helpless in the face of nature. Their lives could be lost at any moment by the most common of natural phenomena: a wave, a current, the wind, a shark, or even simple starvation and exposure....   [tags: The Open Boat, Stephen Crane, Ocean, Commodore]

Powerful Essays
1525 words (4.4 pages)

Stephen Crane's The Open Boat Essay

- Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat"        “None of them knew the color of the sky.” This first sentence in Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” implies the overall relationship between the individual and nature. This sentence also implies the limitations of anyone’s perspective. The men in the boat concentrate so much on the danger they are in, that they are oblivious and unaware to everything else; in other words, maybe lacking experience. “The Open Boat” begins with a description of four men aboard a small boat on a rough sea....   [tags: Open Boat Stephen Crane Essays]

Powerful Essays
776 words (2.2 pages)

Stephen Crane's The Open Boat Essay

- Stephen Crane's The Open Boat Humanity often tends to see itself as being somehow important in the grand scheme of the Universe. We speak of 'fate' as if we were put here for some reason, or purpose. We have our religions, which often serve as an engine to drive our lives and as a means to give meaning to them. But why do we think of ourselves in such a superior fashion. Do we really matter at all. Would the Universe stop if we were suddenly taken away. In his short story, 'The Open Boat,' Stephen Crane shows us a Universe totally unconcerned with the affairs of humankind; it is an indifferent Universe in which Man has to struggle to survive....   [tags: Stephen Crane Open Boat Essays Papers]

Powerful Essays
1032 words (2.9 pages)

Analysis of The Open Boat by Stephen Crane Essay

- Analysis of The Open Boat by Stephen Crane Story: “The Open Boat,” 1897 Author: Stephen Crane (1871-1900) Central Character: There is no real central character in this story. All the men on the boat are spoken about more or less equally and no prominent character jumps out at the reader as being the central character. Although more emphasis is put onto the correspondent, and Billie the oiler. Other Character: The cook: bails water from boat. Billie the oiler: steers and rows boat, is the only of the men that does not make it alive to land....   [tags: The Open Boat Stephen Crane Essays]

Powerful Essays
1402 words (4 pages)

Indifference to Anxiety in Crane's The Open Boat Essay example

- Indifference to Anxiety in Crane's The Open Boat    In recent years, critical response to Stephen Crane's The Open Boat has shifted dramatically, focusing less on the tale's philosophical agendas than on its epistemological implications. The story no longer stands as merely a naturalistic depiction of nature's monumental indifference or as simply an existential affirmation of fife's absurdity. Instead, we have slowly come to realize a new level of the text, one that, according to Donna Gerstenberger, explores "man's limited capacities for knowing reality" (557)....   [tags: Open Boat Essays]

Powerful Essays
2604 words (7.4 pages)