Critical Analysis of ‘The Open Boat’

Critical Analysis of ‘The Open Boat’

Stephen Crane in his book The Open Boat narrates the heart rending ordeals of four shipmen stranded in cruel waters of the sea. With the title, Crane lays the foundation of the works by creating a setting for the story which is narrated vividly narrated as though he is recounting personal events. He describes the fight of man with nature. Through an array of styles like symbolism, irony and personification, the writer of this book successfully brings out the different reactions that people have towards hardships and life’s vicissitudes. It is an account of human strength against the unrelenting forces of nature for survival as the dominant motif. 

Symbolism and personification are among the dominant styles employed by the writer to deliver the message. Varying actions and objects are used to bring deeper meaning in the narrative which would have otherwise been omitted . Through personification the author is able to present more human actions in his work .The four shipwrecked characters navigate the torturous sea while on a boat which is said to be ‘an open boat’ .This symbolises life itself and the fragility attached to it.  In the boat, tailors are prone to all forms of calamities such as the waves, tides, and attack by sea creatures like sharks, the scorching sun’s heat by day and the cold water buy night.  These descriptions paint a picture of the normal ups and downs that people go through on a daily basis. The waters are said to be deep and while the waves barbarous showing the intensity of the struggles. Personification of the waves further shows their unpredictability. Crane (2016) describes says that they were “pacing to and fro”, thus likening them to the struggles in life which are new at all times. These struggles are also consistent as the writer notes how disadvantageous the sea is since waves follow each other; just as one ended, another is right behind it . In the opening chapters, we see how waves are portrayed as being barbarous…depicting their cruelty. When the captain spots a lighthouse from a far, the men are filled with joy as their chances of surviving become more real. The same elation occurs when the men spot a beach…The two signifies hope amidst afflictions and troubles. Failure to successfully survive all these injustices at the sea would lead to drowning in the deep water just as the oiler did thus symbolising defeat in the midst if struggles. 

The traits of the characters as portrayed through their actions helps us understand how different personalities react to situations . Out of the four characters, the oiler presents himself as the pessimist. A conversation ensues where the cook and the correspondent are discussing about the refuge house which they will find at the location that the cook gives . They all seem happy about this news apart from the oiler who comments reminding them that they are still in the sea as if implying to them not to raise their hopes too high. Also, when they got to see the shore with people on it, the oiler remarks that it was impossible for the other lifeboats to have made it to safety. The character is pessimistic nature, through this, the writer is able to show how people are in the habit of being hopeless and shading gloom over seemingly troublesome situations. Among the four men. The oiler was the strongest of them all, yet he is the only one who did not make it to safety after he drowned when he was about to reach the shore. This is not at all ironic since it points back to his negative attitude of getting to land. The hurdles that people face in real life are exemplified by the same traits seen presented by the author of the narrative.

Social relation can be used as an anchor in times of destitution since friendship is a means of gaining support from the trust it creates . The characters in the story are close to each other due to their precious interactions in the ship. The correspondent cannot help but notice how the cook slept with his arms around the oiler and ends up referring to them as the “babes of the sea” . The captain also refers to the three other sailors as his children as a result of the close relationship they had created during the voyages. The writer points out that great brotherhood and comradeship was created in the seas . Even the captain who was meant to be the commander of the crew was warm hearted and never at any time elevated himself above the three men. In the crisis they were facing, the four men at the sea looked after each other and these created comfort even when it all seemed gloomy and hopeless. Through the use of these relationships, the author help the readers understand how to go through similar situations when faced with them by emphasis their importance and the results that they yield. When the men get to the show, the captain shows consideration for his fellow comrades by hinting to the rescuer to first attend to the correspondent .This reveals the importance of having societal support during hardships.

Misfortunes do not always represent destruction and impending failure. In all the waves and tides, the shipwrecked sailors failed to recognise the beauties of the sea and the surrounding. All they focused on was how they would tackle the next wave and if they would get rescued. Crane (2016) states that the four men were not away of the rising of the sun as the night became morning. The intriguing effects the sun rays would have on the waters by changing the colour of the sea between emerald-green and slate were unknown to them. Every struggle is for a good course and these men could not see this. By highlighting the profound lack of connection with the goods things occurring around the stranded sailors, the writer helps readers relate with their struggles in life. This comes as a form of advice and console to everyone. At some point, the cook is thankful that the drift they got from the waves that helped them get to dry land was due to the on-show winds and tides . 

In conclusion, the writer of this narrative recounts experiences in crystal clear descriptions and scenes bringing out the smallest of actions and comments. This technique has culminated into developing critical themes which leave the reader edified. The simple acts are easy to demystify just as the analysis has shown. Symbolism and personification equips the writer with terse and pithy techniques of delivery on content which also ensure the modern day to day experiences are covered such as the struggles in life.