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What Are The Themes Found In Crane's Open Boat?

2413 words - 10 pages

In "The Open Boat" Stephen Crane uses repeating themes of character experience, action and imagery to convey feelings of the overbearing vulnerability, and seeming futility, of the successful human race when placed in context and comparison to nature itself. Crane's depiction of four men in a dinghy that "many a man ought to have a bath-tub larger than" guides a reader through alternating themes of hopelessness and hope during a dilemma that lends its support to defining a facet of life. The story is an enchanting jaunt into exploring the establishment of 'Truth' in life. What 'is' and what 'isn't' Crane claims is never discernable by those involved at the time, only after the fact - upon recollection - is one given the luxury of time for interpretation.The depictions of color play a primary role in the sanity. Crane plays on our sense of color - as if one could ever fully know the color of the 'brick' he likens the clouds as being - to set the stage for stating that all is interpreted by the light objects are seen in, as well as the distance the subject is from the action. The opening sentence, "None of them knew the color of the sky," initiates the reader into a world of question. When in regard to the storyline the first sentence is quite understandable - the four men had what lie all around them to worry about more than the non-threatening sky. Taken as symbolism for another idea, the line suggests a greater lack of knowledge due to the simplicity of this unknown, normally obvious detail. By suggesting four capable men could not discern the color of the sky Crane immediately throws the reader into uncertainty - he has us looking for facts along with his characters.Crane realizes that human existence and storylines benefit from orderliness and repetition, and it is due to this line of reasoning that he starts the story the way he does. The reader begins looking for just what is known in the story while the characters search for what order they can cling to. It is suggested that one, or all four, of the characters create their own repetition (and thus minor comfort) when their reflections were "formulated thus: 'If I am going to be drowned -- if I am going to be drowned -- if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees?'(754)." The line is repeated three times while they founder out at sea - suggesting that men create internal solace when little can be found externallyCrane's search for truth continues with further questioning of existence when he writes: "When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples. Any visible expression of nature would surely be pelleted with his jeers," - to which Crane hints of the philosophy he has concluded;...

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