The Open Boat, Summary

“The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane

“The Open Boat” is a short tale belonging to a talented American poet-naturalist, novelist, Stephen Crane who committed his works to realism. Based on the really existing event this fiction is a brilliant pattern of the Realist literary movement. It has main features of both autobiographical novel and work of fiction.

Many literators prove that the tale describes a real opposition: a human vs nature, but they can’t insist on its precise realism. Some suppose that the author wanted to point out man’s place globally by focusing on various characters of the main heroes. While others refer this piece to the ideological symbolism. They’re sure the author has tried to explain the place of a simple man in the huge universe by means of such literary techniques as metaphors and indirect tricks.

Alongside other Crane’s stories, “The Open Boat” was written in a vital, dynamic yet simple style featuring prominent symbolism and effective imagery. In addition to vibrant descriptions of different objects and scenes, the author used humor. His irony and other bright literary devices make his writing style really fascinating. The fiction is a complete page-turner. From the very beginning, you’re eager to discover what fate awaits them.

This dramatic story consists of seven parts. The entire tale is told mainly from one of the heroes from the lifeboat – the correspondent. In such a manner Stephen Crane narrated his own story when he tried to get the Cuba shore as a war correspondent.

Firstly the writer published the report of that disaster on the front page of a newspaper, with the title “Stephen Crane’s Own Story.” As his post caused the sensation, he decided to turn it into a work of fiction which has come into our view under the name of “The Open Boat.”

Short Summary of the Plot

Once four men (a ship’s captain with a heavy injury, an optimistic cook, a cynic correspondent, and a stoic oiler) found themselves in a lifeboat floating in the stormy ocean, Their ship with all passengers and stuff went to the bottom of the Atlantic water. Their ship Commodore sank to the bottom of the sea near the coast of Florida on the road to the Cuba shore. They noticed a spot of the light on the horizon giving them hope to survive. Though the shore was within the field of view, the stormy waves made it very dangerous to take the boat to the land.

People on the shore signaled them to row towards them, but the waves were extremely big. The shipwrecked men hoped to get help from them, but the odds were against them. To avoid big waves and save their little boat, they turned far from the shore.

Having spent two nights on the boat, finally, the men were absolutely desperate and weak. The captain made up his mind to take another attempt to take their lifeboat closer to the shore. They were ready to reach the land by swimming in case the boat was wrecked. The closer the men reached the shore, the severer the sea was. The boat couldn’t cope with the huge surf – it turned over. The correspondent with his companions in misfortune suddenly appeared in the water. Fortunately, there was a rescue group on the land that helped them run ashore. However, one of them – the oiler – couldn’t conquer the big waves, he dead. Then his body was found on the beach.

Bottoms up

The story depicts the struggle between powerful nature and a pathetic man. It problematizes the place of people isolated from any benefits. The fiction describes how different characters face a disaster and how they struggle against it. It’s interesting to observe how humans interact with each other trying to survive. This Crane’s masterpiece was appreciated by Ernest Hemingway who recommended his story pointing out it as the best one.

Stephen Crane’s story points out that people are so small and helpless in comparison with the powerful universe in the form of nature. When facing nature, who can we rely on?