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Stephen Crane's The Open Boat Essay

1638 words - 7 pages

Stephen Crane’s story, “The Open Boat”, retells a tragic event that actually occurred in his life. This story is told from a third person point-of-view. He chooses to let a narrator reveal the character’s emotions and inner thoughts. From this perspective, the reader can fully experience what happened during their struggle to survive. Crane wants the reader to connect with each individual character and feel their independent struggle as they work together to reach the shore alive. The narrator helps the reader to feel the despair of the freezing, drowning men and the pain of losing one of the “Brotherhood”. The narrator honors the bravery of each of the men on the dinghy, by allowing the ...view middle of the document...

After several hours spent paddling and pitching water, they started to see land a great distance away but the narrator says, “to express any particular optimism at this time they felt to be childish and stupid” (204). At one point, a group of seagulls surrounded the lifeboat and one of the birds took a special interest in the captain who is injured. Additionally, the narrator states, “the bird struck their minds at this point as being gruesome and ominous” (204). All of the men on board the boat felt the same ominous feeling from the bird that was watching them.
In the story, the reader does not obtain much insight from the captain or the oiler. The reader gets a quick look into the wounded captain’s thoughts when he laughs while giving out orders to the crew. The captain showed his anxiety when the birds specifically singled him out because he was wounded. He says, “The captain naturally wished to knock it away with the end of the heavy painter, but he did not dare do it, because anything resembling emphatic gesture would have capsized the freighted boat” (204). In the story, the narrator emphasizes the valiant work of the oiler, but briefly the narrator goes into some of the crew’s inward struggles. He tells the reader that between alternating back and forth in rotation of having to row the boat with the other people “they suffered a bodily depression” (208) but they never voiced their discontent aloud. Not only were they physically and mentally depressed, they were exhausted and famished as well “neither was fond of rowing at this time” (206). All of their feelings and emotions are mutual and known among each other.
The narrator has the most intimate and detailed knowledge as to what the correspondent is thinking and feeling. The narrator pays much attention to divulging the correspondent’s despair during this situation. Since he is the only one rowing at night, he has time for introspection. During a period of exhaustion, the correspondent recalls a song about a soldier in Algiers who is dying and realizes he has a real life understanding of the song. He thinks to himself that up until this point, “he never regarded the fact [of the dying soldier in Algiers] as important” (213). Being the only one awake on the dinghy, he had feelings of loneliness. The narrator tells us that he felt as if he was the only man at sea. He also lets us know of the correspondent’s anger with Fate after working so hard to keep the little boat afloat and still not out of harm’s way. The narrator shares, “it merely occurred to [the correspondent] that if he should drown it would be a shame” (215). The whole affair is absurd… But, know, she cannot mean to drown me. She dare not drown me. She cannot drown me. Not after all this work” (207) and then he continues, “Just you drown me, now, and hear what I call you!” (207). He also ponders, “How in the name of all things sane, could there be people who thought it was amusing to row a boat” (206). After many hours of...

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