Example Of The Indifference Of Nature In Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” Essay
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“The Open Boat” is a tale authored by Stephen Crane that is based on a shipwreck experience that he went through while on a journey from the coast of Florida to Cuba. Crane has just acquired a new job as a newspaper correspondent in Cuba and he is on his way there when the ship that he is travelling on, the SS Commodore hits a sandbar, starts leaking in water and ultimately begins to capsize. However, Crane gets into a lifeboat with three other men and starts sailing towards shore. However, the rough waves of January wreak havoc on the four men as they attempt to reach the shore. They go through a harrowing experience where their boat is constantly tossed around by the rough sea water, and the hopes of men of making it to shore diminish slowly by slowly. Finally, the men are able to spot a beach but just as they are about to reach it, their small boat capsizes and they are forced to swim to shore Three of them men manage to make it to the shore, but one, who was surprisingly the strongest and the fittest drowns just before he can reach the shore. This story exemplifies one major theme. This is that nature is in actual sense indifferent to the fate of man and sometimes, a person’s talent and strength make little difference in the ultimate struggle for survival.
At the beginning of this tale, everything seems to be going well for the correspondent. He has just acquired a new job in Cuba and is set for a new experience in the Caribbean. From the look of things, he is bound to have a relatively successful time in Cuba once he reaches there and commences his job as a correspondent. However, as shown, nature seems to have completely different plans for him. It is in man’s nature to make plans for the future and assume that he is in control of his own fate (Bender 70). However, the story “The Open Boat” seems to bring forth the notion that man is never really in charge of his own fate (Bender 70). Nature has a big part to play in this. The correspondent probably thought that his journey from Florida to Cuba would have been hapless, and he would have reached his destination on time. However, nature intervenes in the form of a sandbar. The ship that is carrying him hits a sandbar in the ocean and is punctured. This causes water to start leaking into the ship. In no time, the ship starts leaking in water and begins to sink. At this point, it would seem that nature has sealed the fate of the men; and that is death. Luckily for them, the ship is carrying lifeboats, and the men get into these lifeboats to save their lives from the now capsizing ship.
Here, it appears that the men have escaped from the jaws of death. There is no doubt that they would have died if they remained in the capsizing ship. The lifeboats will surely now take them to shore and may be the correspondent can even resume his journey to Cuba. However, nature once gain reveals its indifference to the fate of man. The sea is laden with rough waves that wreak havoc on the survivor. They are forced to battle the rough waves as they attempt to make it to shore (Bender 71). Nature could have perhaps decided to be on their side by making the waters calm and therefore allowing the men to row peacefully. This is however a characteristic of nature. It will not alter itself to suit the needs or the fate of man.
The men spot a beach and man walking on it. They wave at him excitedly, and the man seems to recognize their presence because he waves back. Later on, the men spot a group of tourists who have come to enjoy the beach, and they once again start waving. However, the tourists take them to be fisherman, and they simply wave back and go on with their activities. The men are obviously saddened by the occurrence. In addition, nature once again takes its course and reveals its ugly side and its ultimate indifference to the fate of man. After being ignored by the tourists as well as the man on the boat, the wind of all sudden shifts and the waters become rougher. In addition, night creeps in and the men cannot tell which side the land is on, and they start drifting away (West 216).
Night time also brings out the indifference of nature to the fate of man. The wind blows into the boat accompanied by the cold sea breeze that ultimately chills the men to the bone (West 217).
The final indifference to nature is exhibited when the waters become even rougher just as the men are about to reach shore. After getting closer to the shore, the men probably think that they have been saved but once again, nature reveals it indifference to man’s fate when it makes the waters rougher, and the boat capsizes and once again, the men are forced to fight for their lives by swimming to shore (West 218).
In addition to the indifference of nature towards the fate of the men, it also comes across that their talents and skills are also seemingly useless in the fight for survival. One of the men in the boat is captain but while in the boat, his talents play a very little role in their struggle for the survival (Bender 76). The same applies to all the other men in the boat. The correspondent, the cook, and the oiler do not know anything about sailing and theirs is a trial and error as they attempt to make it to shore. Of all the men, the oiler is the fittest and the strongest. This is exemplified when the men start swimming towards the shore, and the oiler goes way ahead of them. At this point, the uselessness of skills and talents is exhibited by the fact that the oiler drowns before he can make shore while all his other compatriots survive. His talent and strength does not aid him in his quest for survival, and he ultimately dies.
In conclusion, the tale “The Open Boat” depicts the struggle of four men who have been forced to get into a lifeboat after the ship they were in capsizes. Nature is shown as being completely indifferent to the fate of the men and, in fact, it seems that it is hell bent on ending the lives of the men. In addition, the skills of the man as well as their strengths and talents are shown to be indifferent to their fate as exhibited by the drowning of the oiler, the strongest and the fittest of men in the group. However, the three other men are able to save their lives and live to tell their experience.
Bender, Bert. "The Nature and Significance of" Experience" in" The Open Boat"." The Journal of Narrative Technique (1979): 70-80.
West, Ray B. "Stephen Crane: Author in Transition." American Literature (1962): 215-228.
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