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Naturalism In Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat”

988 words - 4 pages

During a few decades, American society had been through different significant changes such as the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, and Scientific Development. These changes had given a massive influence to the American literary movement in the nineteenth century. In fact, some of the literary works at that time are a reflection of those changes. One remarkable intellectual trend, which emerged in America in the nineteenth century and which subsequently became a literary movement is Naturalism (Kendir). In this case, Scientific Development is a major factor that influences the movement of literary naturalism. Charles Darwin is the one who brought up a new concept of sciences, in which Stephen Crane will use it as a concept for his short story “The Open Boat”. From Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species,” there are two concepts that can be found in “The Open Boat.” The first concept is natural selection, which means only individuals with certain advantageous characteristic will remain survived (Padian, 2009). Apparently, Crane used this Darwin’s idea as a foundation of the story for his short story “The Open Boat.” Then, the next concept is survival of the fittest which means nature only selected the fittest individuals that can adapt to any changes. In “The Open Boat,” Crane explicitly tells the readers the effort from the four men and their struggle for existence. In brief, the influence of Darwinism had played a pivotal role in literary movement by inserting a new philosophy and idea of life based upon science, in which this idea is used by Stephen Crane for his short story “The Open Boat.”
Naturalism was a literary movement of the late nineteenth century, and it was mostly influenced by Scientific Development at that time. Development of sciences had changed most people’s ways of thinking and established a new doctrine within society. Charles Darwin is the one who should be responsible for this situation as he presented his theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest in his book “The Origin of Species”. Mostly, Naturalism is characterized by its psychological foundation drawing upon sciences and Darwinism theory. “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane is a reflection of Naturalism as it is portraying the cruelty of the environment. Crane portrays an effort, a struggle, and a spirit of the four men on the boat battling against nature. Implicitly, “The Open Boat” tells the reader that if the survivors were not struggling to death, they will be defeated by nature. They cannot even enjoy every single minute on the boat as they have to deal with the waves and the winds. Given such condition makes the survivors forget the beauty of nature because what they only know at that time was nature is going to kill them:
The process of the breaking day was unknown to them. They were aware only of this effect upon the color of the waves that rolled toward them (Crane).
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