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Stephen Crane's The Open Boat Essay

1420 words - 6 pages

“The Open Boat” was written by Stephen Crane in 1897. This is an extremely powerful short story fictionalized by one of Crane’s own experiences out at sea. He is able to use what has happened to him, and spice it up to turn his story into a fictional account everyone can relate to. The reasons this story is so powerful is because of the literary devices Crane uses throughout the story, especially symbolism. In “The Open Boat,” Crane uses the four main characters, the dinghy, the waves, and the sea-weed as symbols to produce a microcosm of society.
The most important method Crane utilizes to be able to produce a microcosm of society, is through symbolizing the four main characters of “The Open Boat.” Each man Crane places on the boat plays as a particular role to produce a minute society people can relate to; the four major characters are: the captain, the cook, the correspondent, and the oiler. The captain is exactly what he sounds like he would symbolize in a society. When a person hears the word “captain,” he/she automatically imagines a person in charge. Therefore, by naming him “the captain,” the readers are aware that he is in charge of everyone on the boat, and that he symbolizes all the people in the world who are leaders in life. He represents the ones who do not have to work that hard in life, and who controls what others do. To understand who the cook symbolizes in society, the audience may have to analyze the story a little bit more in depth. After closely reading there are some key pieces of information in the text that leads to the cook symbolizing the followers of society. The audience only gets to know the cook through conversation, and by what the captain is telling him to do. In part VII of “The Open Boat,” “the captain said, ‘Bail her out, cook! Bail her out’”(Crane, 1004). Until the captain told the cook to do something, he would basically just sit around and do nothing. This is exactly like the followers in society; they only do and follow what others tell them to do. Contrary to both the captain and the cook, the correspondent and the oiler are the hard workers in society. By examining the story the readers can understand the correspondent as a symbol of the thinkers in a society. Crane repeats a thought the correspondent has three times throughout the story. He is continuously questioning himself, “Why was I saved from the initial shipwreck, if I am going to die, drowning, by trying to get to shore” (Crane, 1004). Just like the correspondent, the thinkers in society are always wondering why ideas, phenomenon, people, etc. are what they are. The oiler, which is probably the hardest worker in the dinghy, symbolizes, of course, the hard workers in life. Again the readers do not have to read that much into the story to understand who the oiler symbolizes. “The oiler plied the oars until his head drooped forward, and the overpowering sleep blinded him. And he rowed yet afterward” (Crane, 1000). He is...

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