Short Story Analysis

"The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane

Critical Biography:

Stephen Crane was one of America's first realistic writers, and some of his pieces have been considered the start of American Naturalism. Stephen Crane was born on November 1st, 1871 New Jersey. Crane was the youngest in a family of fourteen children. He was influenced to write by his father who was a Methodist minister, and his mother who was dedicated to social to social issues. Both of his parents wrote religious articles and two of his brothers were also journalists ("Stephen (Townley) Crane").

Crane started college in 1888 at Hudson River Institute and Claverack College that was a military school where he gained interest in Civil War studies and military training. Through his higher education, he wrote as a freelance writer for his brother. While at Syracuse University in 1891, Crane decided that humanity was more interesting to study that college studies, so he quit school to work with his brother and also at the New York Tribune ("Stephen (Townley) Crane").

He used his acute observations and past experiences to reach a sharpness in his writing that few writers had done before him. His collection of short stories, "The Open Boat,"The Bridge Comes to Yellow Sky," and "The Blue Hotel," are some of the most expertly constructed works in American Literature. Crane's second book was The Red Badge of Courage won him fame around the world. This plotless novel was about a soldier named Henry and his experiences on the battlefield. In 1900, Crane’s health declined because he ignored his health. Crane died of Tuberculosis on June 5, 1900, in Badenweiler Germany at the age of twenty-eight ("Stephen (Townley) Crane").

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“The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane, is a short story about for men attempting to survive in the Atlantic Ocean on a small boat. The vigorous waves batter the boats they desperately try to get to shore. After getting close to shore, the waves pull the boat back out to sea. Being tired and weak, they take shifts paddling the boat. At the break of dawn, shore was spotted, but the boat could not make it far. Before the small boat went under, they jumped out and swam to shore. Bystanders at the beach hurriedly went to help the men to shore. When three of them made it, there was a harsh cry, and they turned around to see the other man was lying face down on the sand.
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Theme Analysis

The main theme I noticed while reading "The Open Boat," was mortality. The whole story was that the men realized that they are going to drown in the small boat ("The Open Boat," 201). "The hurt captain, lying in the front, was feeling defeat and despair (Crane 2)," is a quote showing that the captain of the ship had already accepted the fact that they were going to die. "And this captain had in his thoughts the firm impression of a scene in the grays of dawn, with seven faces turned down in the sea. And later the remains of the ship, washed by waves, going low and lower and down (Crane 2)." Captains are responsible for their ships and now that the ship had sunk he was in charge of the men on the small boat. This quote shows that the captain is already visioning all of their deaths and the boat sinking. “If we don't all get to shore,” said the captain, “—if we don’t all get to shore, I suppose you fellows know where to send news of my finish?” Then they briefly exchanged some addresses and instructions (Crane 6)." Here the captain openly states that he probably will die, and they tell each other what to do if they do not make it. It seems like they have all accepted their fate, that they will not make it.

Facing death, people think differently and see the world in a whole new way. Stephen Crane pushes the idea that nature is ruthless and arbitrary by letting the oiler die in the water. Out of the four men, the oiler seemed less likely to die because he was obviously in better shape than all of them because he has had to row boats his whole life. The oiler's death indicates that the survival of the other men was solely the product of luck("The Open Boat," 201).

Works CIted

  • Crane, Stephen. "The Open Boat." United States Department of State. N.D. 26 April 2016. PDF file.

  • "Stephen (Townley) Crane." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2000. Literature Resource Center. Web. 4 May 2016.

  • "The Open Boat." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1998.197-201. Print.

Ethan Payton

"Are you feeling it now, Mr.Krabs?"