Indifference of Nature vs. Virtue of Man in Stephen Crane's The Open Boat. Explores irony, symbolism, and color imagery.

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Indifference of Nature Versus Virtue of Man in "The Open Boat"

Although he failed to reach the tender age of twenty-nine, late-nineteenth-century American author Stephen Crane published innumerable works of notoriety during his lifetime. A poet, impressionist, journalist, social critic and realist, Crane often rebelled against the religious and social norm of the era through his writings. In one of his later works, "The Open Boat," Crane chronicles the experiences of four shipwrecked sailors maneuvering a dinghy off the Florida coast in a desperate struggle for their lives. In the story, Crane achieves a highly poetic and rhythmic sense of style, successfully incorporating irony with symbolism and vivid imagery. "The Open Boat" calls for man to move beyond the cold indifference of Nature in an attempt to transcend a meaningless existence. Courage, virtue, and camaraderie must exist and thrive amidst a catastrophic and chaotic world in order for man to truly live and thrive.

Crane's frequent use of color imagery helps to convey a sense of both emotion and logical progression throughout the story. For example, Crane begins the story with "None of them knew the color of the sky (1721)," which gives an immediate sense of uncertainty and irrationality. However, the men do observe that the color of the sea is "the hue of slate (1722)," a color which usually connotes a sense of despair and dread. Later in the story, just as dawn breaks one morning, Crane again incorporates color into the narration:

The sun swung steadily up the sky, and they knew it was broad day because the color of the sea changed from slate to emerald green, streaked with amber lights, and the foam was like tumbling snow. The process of the breaking day was unknown to them. They were...