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Human Life in “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane

“The Open Boat” is a story written by Stephen Crane about a crew on a boat that is sailing through a storm towards a lighthouse. The men courageously try to overcome the waves that at any moment can overturn their boat. Evidently, if that happens, all of them will die since the shore is still far away, and they have little strength left to swim towards it. This paper will present the analysis of the main themes and ideas Crane expresses in “The Open Boat.”

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This story begins with the description of the circumstances in which the crew of the ship is at the moment of the narration. The author describes the waves and the crew’s attempts to pour water out of the boat and direct their ship towards the shore (Crane 5). There are instances in life where the circumstances prompt one to lose hope. As Crane describes it, “in a ten-foot boat, one can get a good idea of the great force of the sea” (2). In parallel to real life, many people give in to these ideas of hopefulness and decide not to try. However, on a boat in the middle of the sea, there is no escape for the crew and their captain, so unless they continue to manage the boat and pump the water out of it, they will sink.

Nature acts without regard for the struggles that the crew experiences. No matter how many gallons of water they throw or of the boat or how much effort they need to put into managing the oars, the storm does not stop. Moreover, Crane writes that “a particular danger of the sea is the fact that after successfully getting through one wave, you discover that there is another behind it” (2). Hence, even if the crew managed to overcome one strong wave and survive, another one will follow after it, bringing as much danger as the one before. In contrast to this, during some times, nature calms, and the men feel the warm breeze. This shows that to nature, the struggles and the efforts of men do not matter, as it continues to manifest in its own way. Moreover, although most individuals prefer to think of themselves as significant, nature is a much greater and powerful force.

It is remarkable how the crew and their captain continue to try and reach the shore with the lighthouse, despite the forces of the sea trying to overturn them over and over again. Moreover, all of the men work relentlessly without complaining since “it would be difficult to describe the secure bond between men that was here established on the seas” (3). Arguably, this shows the idea that difficult circumstances allow people to bond, where they need to work together to survive. Moreover, in such conditions, one can see who is their true companion, since non of the crew members refused to perform their part, arguing that they will never make it to the shore or that they are tired.

In this story, Crane depicts an unusual situation for a contemporary person, which illustrates the difficulties of men, in contrast to their insignificance for nature and the Universe in general. Throughout the story, the crew suffers and endures difficulties, which are very significant for every man on that ship. They are at a risk of death, which is why they choose to discuss the things they would want to tell to their loved ones and exchange addresses to ensure that the surviving ones can notify the families of the deceased. Although this is a tragic moment, for the great sea and the storm, these details do not matter and.

In such circumstances, brave and smart people have to work in cooperation and listen to their leader’s orders. The great respect that the men on the boat felt towards their captain is shown by Crane n the following: “it was more than a mere recognition of what was best for their safety” (4). Hence, the crew understands that their captain, although wounded, is still their guide through the storm, and he has the expertise to help them reach the shore. Hence, they do not argue or try to offer their ideas on how to manage this ship and instead focus on fulfilling the orders. This element of the story shows the importance of respect for one’s authority and competence.

Overall, this paper is an analysis of the main themes and ideas expressed by Crane in his story “The Open Boat.” This story is an intriguing depiction of human behavior in a challenging scenario, shown through the sinking boat’s example. The main ideas are the endurance, the hope that these men continue to have, and the forces of nature and the Universe that disregard the struggles of these individuals.

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Crane, Stephen. The Open Boat. NetLibrary, 1995.

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