"The Open Boat" Conflict

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2002

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Dinghy vs. Nature In his short story, "The Open Boat," Stephen Crane shows how an inanimate object can be very unconcerned with whether you live or die. In this case, it is an ocean, which man has to struggle to survive. The characters in the story come face to face with this natural disaster and nearly overcome by Nature's lack of concern. They survive only through persistence and cooperation. Crane shows the reader how not to give up when something so uncontrollable is present. Crane shows how unforgiving the sea can actually be by incorporating sharks, a flock of birds, and recollection of their childhood.

The story opens with four men, the captain, the oiler, the correspondent, and the cook, stranded in the ocean in a small boat. Crane's descriptions in these opening scenes show right away the struggles the men face while trying to stay alive while the sea rips them apart.

The men are in a desperate situation, but nature continues its ways regardless of what might happen to them. The sun continues to rise and set everyday. The shore is "lonely and indifferent." They are even regarded by a shark: "There was a long, loud swishing astern of the boat, and a gleaming trail of phosphorescence, like a blue flame, was furrowed on the black waters. It might have been made by a monstrous knife." (352 Crane) The men try every thing to get to shore but the waves keep pushing them out. This is however, just normal activity of nature, not any act of aggression against man.

"The birds sat comfortably in groups, and they were envied by some in the dinghy, for the wrath of the sea was no more to them than it was to a covey of prairie chickens a...