Stephen Crane “The Open Boat”

Categories: Short Story

“The Open Boat”, written by Stephen Crane, a story that in fact took place in Crane’s life that inspired him to write about the true events that occurred. When Crane traveled to Cuba to work as a newspaper correspondent, Crane was stranded out in the ocean for thirty hours after his ship sank off the cost of Florida. Crane luckily found three other men to help him navigate their way to safety on a small boat.

After this incident happened, Crane wrote this in order to tell people about four men that were stranded at sea and show how they struggled for survival against nature itself.

Crane uses his theme in the story as man vs. nature. Naturalism is a big part of Crane’s work throughout this short story. It is imaginative as well as original in Crane’s line of work.

“The Open Boat” starts of with four men on a small boat on a rough sea. A cook who is very optimistic about their survival, a correspondent which I believe represents Crane, an oiler named Billie who is the strongest rower but dies in the whole ordeal right when they are about to be saved, and finally the captain who is hurt and can not help.

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The four men are off the cost of Florida, they finally see a lighthouse out in the distance, so they grow hopeful of their survival at this point in time.

 As the four men start to notice the shore they feel discouraged once more since the waves are way to big to try to steer lifeboat to shore.

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The men are forced to go out deeper out to see in order to survive the waves that might steer their boat in crashing.  The four men spend a total of two days out at sea taking turns rowing in order to survive. On the morning after there second night they become the most daring. The captain decided that they must travel closest to the shore in order to swim after their boat has been overturned.

This is exactly what occurred. The captain, the cook, and the correspondent swim to shore and rescuers help the three men out of the water. The oiler, Billie was not so lucky. The strongest man of them all drowned with a huge wave throwing him deep into sea.

In “The Open Boat” there are characteristics that show both realism and naturalism, but naturalism to me is the most important feature in this story. Crane focuses on showing his audience how four men overcame being stranded out in the ocean and surviving. Crane also shows themes such as man vs. nature and brotherhood. “Naturalism is known to have an extension of realism, as well as introducing characters from the fringes of depths of society whose fates are determined by degenerate heredity , a sordid environment, and or a good deal of bad luck.”(7).

One of Crane's naturalist methods is to present lifeless objects as if there alive. The boat in which the four men ride is described as if a "bucking bronco”. Yet set against this animation of the objects and environment in which they find themselves trapped, these men are continually assaulted by an ominous and pervasive "greyness". The waves are described to be like "slate".  Crane shyly adds that although none of these men know the color of the sky, each one could exhaustively describe the "colors of the sea”.

Their eyes gazing out at the sea in a mix of terror and awe turn grey as if in sympathetic correspondence. The correspondent is drawn as curious, anxious to know what is going on and why. The cook is seen to be light-hearted and affirmative of life. The captain is intent on developing a strategy for bringing his new crew successfully to shore. The oiler is presented as the most dispassionate, the most cynical. Already in this first section, Crane's technique hints that in this naturalist tale the one who accepts the severity of his condition and does not battle against it may be the one most easily wronged by nature.

In “The Open Boat”, the three men are not at all experienced in surviving out at sea; maybe except of course the captain. They have to help one another overcome the trenches of waves that can kill them by drowning them to death. Naturalism is the best way to describe this story because the whole story takes place out in distasteful environment of bad luck. It teaches the four men to unite together. It teaches the four men about brotherhood. In bad times they can be there for one another, maybe not physically but mentally. The captain is one example that is used to teach the other men about brotherhood. He can not help physically because he is hurt but moral support is one of the biggest aspects that get the men through the troubles they were in.

“The Open Boat” to me is a story of true hope and accomplishment. It shows people not to give up no matter what situation that they may be in. No one is ready in being stranded out to see but with brothers you can help one another uphold disaster.  Now ashore the three survivors sit in an awed silence. Now when they heard the surf's call, its fierce beatings upon the sand, the captain, the cook and the correspondent know that they have acquired new knowledge. They have survived to become "interpreters" of the sea, its sounds, rhythms and cruelties. Crane is a true inspirational writer who has achieved his work through his thoughts and words.

Work Cited

  1. Crane, Stephen. The Open Boat. 1897.
Updated: Nov 01, 2022
Cite this page

Stephen Crane “The Open Boat”. (2017, Jan 16). Retrieved from

Stephen Crane “The Open Boat” essay
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