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. The correspondent: Also helps steer and row boat. Injured captain: gives commands to the crew as he lies against the water-jar speaking with a low and calm voice. Unnamed people on land: Coat swinger, naked man, etc.
Setting: A 10 foot dinghy floats upon a rowdy ocean near the coast of Florida in January in the late 1800’s. It seems that everything on the sea is grey weighing heavily on the feeling of the men. There is a tired and frustrated feelings among the men as they want to leave the boat and return to land, although, Billie and the cook provide some humor when referring to the blasted oars and to pie.
Narrator: The author, 3rd person, omniscient point of view.
Events in summary: (1) Four men have survived from a sunken steamer and are stuck in a 10 ft steamer out at sea some where near the coast of Florida.(2)The Injured captain lay over the water-jar giving orders to the correspondent and Billie the oiler letting them know how to steer and row the boat. The crew makes its way to Mosquito Inlet light where they believe that there will be a house of refuge. (3) Seagulls taunt the crew, one in particular trying to land on the captain’s head. This kills the crew’s optimism about the wind blowing ashore. The oiler and the correspondent continue to row switching off when the other is tired. (4) The captain then spots a lighthouse on the horizon, like a small dot. The captain decides to use his jacket and an oar to make a sail to let the men rest. No one spots the boat and they find it curious, assuming that no one must be looking out the window out to the sea. They deicide to got back to sea to avoid the risky surf. (5) The wind dies down and the men spot some more people on the shore. There is a van or a boat of some sort, and a man that is swinging his coat. They don’t actually try to help the crew they just ...
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... sit comfortably in groups on the water while the sea tries to attack the men. The shark finds no use for the men, the correspondent views the windmill as a symbol of nature in that it is neutral and unconcerned by the men’s destiny sitting on the lonely shore. The characters can be studied through their relationships to their surroundings. The correspondent remembers a rhyme from his childhood, and he feels pity for the dying soldier mentioned in that verse. This verse never seemed important to him before, but now being menaced my nature and being alone in the cruel world he understands the soldiers situation.
Evaluation: I enjoyed this story, because it had many different kinds of criticism that could be applied to it. Especially that of biographical criticism because it based off at true story that actually happened to the author himself. It was also nice to see the characters grow, as friends and as men. I also really enjoyed the style of writing and the use of similes, imagery, and detail. These really painted a picture in my head.
Crane, Stephen. “The Open Boat.” An Introduction to Fiction. X. J. Kennedy, Dana
Gioia. New York: Longman 2005.215-233.
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