LiteraryAnalysis: ‘The Open Boat’ by Stephen Crane.
Theopen Boat is a short story by Stephen Crane about four men who werein a small boat stranded in the sea. The mood of the story ishopeless and frustrating given the fact that it signifies that ourlife is insignificant in the world. The story teaches us that wecannot control our own fate as humans. It also depicts naturalismwhich shows us that humans are like animals in that we respond inaccordance to the nature drives just like the animals do.
Someof the major themes that are brought out by this story includeHumanity’s insignificance in the universe, loneliness andalienation, nature’s disconnectedness from humanity and solacefound only in the society.
Nature’sdisconnectedness from humanity
Humanbeings tend to see themselves as important in this world and thatthey are here to fulfill some sort of a purpose. The open boat storymakes us question ourselves whether we really matter in this life,whether we are here for some reason. The sad fact is that we live ina indifferent universe and that it does not care about the affairs ofhuman kind. It is a ‘humanity against the universe’ sort of asituation as depicted by the open boat story.
Thestory shows us that nature is indifference to man nature does nothave a conscious that a man can understand. As the men strive tostruggle at the sea, they realize that the universe has no concernand it is very uncaring and they have no control over it whatsoever. However, there are some good that comes with the nature as randomand unpredictable as nature is the men experience some calm nightsamidst all the tides. This means that nature is not entirely a roughforce which is demonstrated by the ultimate rescue of thecorrespondent.
Nature’sacts are further demonstrated by the death of Billie, in this caseunfairness and hopelessness, it was very unfair for him to die rightbefore they reach the shore and also given the fact that he was themost hardworking as he refused to give up the row. Billie’s deathalso shows us that humans’ fate is dictated by nothing in thatthough we maybe hardworking we are not guaranteed to enjoy the fruitsof our labor. Crane uses irony in trying to find meaning in life.“..If am going to be drowned, If am going to be drowned, If amgoing to be drowned…” (Crane, pp71). This repeat phrase istrying to show us there must be a reason as to why the four men hadnot drowned earlier in this regard it further shows disconnectednesswith the nature.
Humanity’sinsignificance in the universe
Theopen boat story shows us that in our struggle to survive in this lifewe are insignificant to nature’s workings. The vulnerability ofthe four men at the sea is a symbol of the fact that we are open tothe unpredictability of life and that it is neither logical nor is itfair. Our only hope is to navigate through life as it comes just likethe four men whose only hope was to navigate through the sea for themto survive. The story shows us that in our fight against the powerfulforces of nature we should not despair this is best shown by thecorrespondent who settles for despair after realizing that that theirsituation is “..sad..”. (Crane, pp75).
Loneliness,alienation and solace found only in the society.
Inthe story, everything is going on as normal, the sun is rising andsetting every day, “..the birds are sat comfortably ingroups..”(Crane, pp 60) but the men were in a desperate situation.The feeling of loneliness clicked in as they realized that thoughtheir surroundings seemed to be normal, they felt indifferent andseparate from the nature apart from the fact that they were in themidst of it all. “..thecook and the correspondent had to look over their shoulders to seethe lonely and distant shore..”,despite the fact that the nature seemed aggressive on them, theystill had these thoughts that they their fate was controlled by anoutside force and that it had abandoned them.
Itis in the realization that the universe has no sympathy on human kindthat the four men only hope was to cooperate and have a sense ofbrotherhood for them to overcome the uncaring nature. “…there wasthis comradeship that the correspondent, for instance, who had beentaught to be cynical of men, knew even at the time was the bestexperience of his life…”(Crane pp 61) The correspondent hadrecalled earlier in his life he had felt compassion for an inexistentsoldier who was dying. At this moment, it occurred to him how theworld out there is cruel. In his situation, correspondent wasrelating his current situation with that of the soldier. However, heunderstands that he doesn’t have to be alone, if they could cometogether as one then there would be a chance for them to survive thewhole situation.
Inthe story, the oiler speaks of the sole brotherhood of men, the fourmen represents the society as a whole. The men are hopeful in theirfight against the vices of nature, they try to help and come togetherfor one another. Though they are different as humans they are facedwith the same problem at the sea they therefore relate to oneanother in a sense of brotherhood. This depicts of the solace thathumanity relies on as a society. They also represent social classesin the society for instance the correspondent represents theobservers in the society who attempts to find hope and meaning inthis life.
Thecaptain represents the leaders in our society who even though isinjured fights for his people he’s however devastated and feelslike he has failed his people by the loss of the boat "..If wedon`t all get ashore," the captain says, "I suppose youfellows know where to send news of my finish?..".(Crane, pp 64) The cook on the other hand represents the people in the society whoare optimistic that he’s going to be rescued from the menace. He isa follower in the society who is not in a position to row due to hisweight. Billie is the most hardworking and he represents the peoplein the society who are good and the heroic. He doesn’t give up inhis rowing and his selflessness is seen in his giving hope to theothers. (Crane, pp 73)
Inconclusion, the story of the open boat shows us clearly the realityof this world he shows us that the universe/nature will never givein the needs/will of the men, however we have each other and in ourconstant striving of futility we can hold each other’s hands.
Crane,Stephen. OpenBoat and Other Stories.Dover Publications, 2012. Internet resource.