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The Open Boat By Stephen Crane

1642 words - 7 pages

In the story "The Open Boat," by Stephen Crane, Crane uses many literary techniques to convey the stories overall theme. The story is centered on four men: a cook, a correspondent, Billie, an oiler who is the only character named in the story, and a captain. They are stranded in a lifeboat in stormy seas just off the coast of Florida, just after their ship has sunk. Although they can eventually see the shore, the waves are so big that it is too dangerous to try to take the boat in to land. Instead, the men are forced to take the boat further out to sea, where the waves are not quite as big and dangerous. They spend the night in the lifeboat and take turns rowing and then resting. In the morning, the men are weak and exhausted. The captain decides that they must try to take the lifeboat as close to shore as possible and then be ready to swim when the surf inevitably turns the boat over and throws the men into the cold sea. As they get closer to land a big wave comes and all the men are thrown into the sea. The lifeboat turns over and the four men must swim into shore. There are rescuers waiting on shore who help the men out of the water. Strangely, as the cook, captain and correspondent reach the shore safely and are helped out of the water, they discover that, somehow, the oiler has drowned after being smashed in the surf by a huge wave. (255-270) “The Open Boat’s” main theme deals with a character’s seemingly insignificant life struggle against nature’s indifference. Crane expresses this theme through a suspenseful tone, creative point of view, and a mix of irony.

Crane draws his readers into the story with tone by placing the reader into the same frame of reference as the characters. In "The Open Boat", the beginning focuses on the matter at hand, the fight against the elements. The story’s first sentence, “No one knew the color of the sky (255),” thrusts the reader into the position of the characters, which have a limited perspective of the world. They are so consumed with their struggle against the waves they do not even have the time to notice something as simple as the color of the sky. From the very beginning the reader is filled with the suspense that each individual character feels. Despite the crews struggle with Mother Nature, they are continually struck by the fierce waves. With each passing wave the reader is lead to believe that this one will surely be the one that capsizes the little dingy. “As the salty wall of water approached, it shut all else from the view of the men in the boat, and was not difficult to imagine that this particular wave was the final outburst of the ocean (256).” Crane creates suspense between the reader and the characters that allow both to feel the relentlessness of nature’s indifference of their struggled attempts to survive. It seems that no matter how hard the crew works to keep the dingy from capsizing “… the waves continued their old impetuous swooping at the dingy, and the little craft, no longer...

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