In his short story, "The Open Boat," Stephen Crane shows us a universe totally unconcerned with the affairs of human kind; an indifferent world in which Man has to struggle to survive. The characters in the story come face to face with this indifference and are nearly overcome by Nature's lack of concern, yet they succeed through persistence and cooperation. Crane thus asserts that all we have in our constant struggle for survival is stubborn pride and companionship.
The story portrays four men, known simply as the captain, the oiler, the correspondent, and the cook, stranded in the ocean in a small boat. Crane's descriptions in the opening scenes already show the antagonism between the men and the sea and Nature's lack of concern for their tragedy.
The characters find themselves in a desperate situation, but Nature continues in its ways regardless of what might happen to them.
The men, however, seem detached from the clockwork of their surroundings; separate, but somehow in the midst of everything that is taking place around them. This indifference causes them to feel a certain alienation from Nature. They even deem the universe hostile, and perceive normal natural phenomena as acts of aggression against them.
Although the characters float adrift in an uncaring sea, at this point they still seem to think their destinies are controlled by some outer force. However it soon dawns on them that there is no "fate," no purpose for their being where they are. It is the realization of this fact that brings them to the brink of despair. Crane's journalistic prose shows the futility and hopelessness the characters feel in the face of indifference.
What can Man do when faced with a Universe that has no sympathy for him? How can we survive...