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The Open Boat by Stephen Crane

Essay by   •  September 24, 2013  •  Essay  •  775 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,652 Views

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The Open Boat by Stephen Crane is a story full of symbolism about mans' will to live and the tension between an individual's struggle and the environmental influences. The story begins with the remains of a shipwrecked crew that is trying to reach land on a small dingy that is slowly filling with water. The crew is rowing towards a lighthouse and land off in the distance. As the crew of the dingy approaches land, strangers appear on the shore and the battle begins on whether or not help will be arriving or if the crew still needs to paddle to shore. As night falls upon the crew, the tension between the environment and the individual begins to change shape as the feelings of impending doom fill the minds of the crew.

The environment in this piece is both literal and figurative in this story. The environment is taking place on the dingy in the middle of the ocean. This environment is difficult due to the confined spaces of the dingy and the vast ocean that acts as a barrier between the sailors and land. The dingy represent a confined space but also acts as a means to survival. The dingy acts as the rocking of decisions people make and whether or not to flee or fight the situation. The ocean is both the ocean as well as the trial these men will face in order to survive. The oceans environment is scary, dark, and full of creatures and is the burden put on the crew.

Also consider the environmental battle taking place in the minds of the crew. This is shown through the way all of the crew remains in their positions and keeps the hierarchy within the dingy even though they all are seeking the same end goal. In total chaos man is more likely to seek some sort of order. The way the men kept their positions in total chaos is a way to reduce panic even against the vastness of the ocean.

The captain is trying to keep the crew in the right mindset that they will reach land safely by remaining in the captain role. He continually lets the crew believe that progress is being made and that they will survive all the while he is internalizing his own demise. The captain states over and over Crane (2013) "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?" (The Open Boat). The captains' internal environment is focused on his battle with the afterlife all the while he is telling his crew that everything will be okay.

The people on land are in a positive environment but internally they have to fight an internal battle and decide whether or not the people in the boat are here with good intentions or bad intentions. This raises a moral question for the people on shore. The story never states whether or not the people on shore are indigenous people or Europeans. However they are stuck in a moral quandary on saving a man's life

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