A great number of critics consider The Open Boat to be the greatest creation of Stephen Crane. The plot is built around the fierce struggle of four shipwrecked persons to survive in a challenging sea in a ten-foot dinghy. In this case, the number one question isn’t who will survive as it’s a matter of chance. The author here is more focused on nature of human life as well as the place of humanity in the universe. The theme isn’t presented here as an abstract philosophical statement. On the contrary, it emerges from a brilliantly compelling rendition of life in an open boat, greatly portrayed as well as psychologically exact.
By the way, the events preceding those of The Open Boat get recounted in Stephen Crane’s Own Story, issued in 1897—just five days after the Commodore sank.
In fact, the short story can be appreciated even without reading the journalistic narrative, although being aware of the context is quite useful. That’s instructive to compare the openings. Well, Stephen Crane’s Own Story starts right after the dateline, a functional journalistic prose, whose major purpose is the objective presentation of facts. On the other hand, the opening of The Open Boat appears to be one of the most famous sentences in up-to-date literature. With the utmost concision, it discloses the essentials of life in a ten-foot dinghy. The readers’ attention is focused exactly on survival from moment to moment. You close your eyes and imagine the terrible waves, threatening to swamp the boat and it feels like there’s no more crucial.
In fact, the four men in the dinghy appear to be the captain of the Commodore. These are the oiler, who previously worked in the engine room; the ship’s cook as well as the correspondent, Stephen Crane himself. All of them have come together by accident. They’re strangers whose names, except for the oiler’s, are given incidentally in dialogue, so they aren’t even mentioned. The given omission suggests that those men are Everyman, or everyone, in a symbolic sense. Everyman is used to living in an open boat without being aware of it.
All these folks appear to be separated from the sea by so-called six inches of gunwale. The correspondent wonders and rows include the place and time, such as the boat, in this case, while the wonderment deals with human life in general.
Many of the details of the story boast a similar double significance, coming as they come from two different angles. Well, the correspondent’s sitting in the boat six inches just from the waves, simultaneously, the readers’ attention shifts to the events afterwards.
A great number of critics consider The Open Boat to be the greatest creation of Stephen Crane. The plot is built around the fierce struggle of four shipwrecked persons to survive in a challenging sea in a ten-foot dinghy. In this case, the number one question isn’t who will survive as it’s a matter of chance.