Nature as Depicted in Open Boat by Stephen Crane

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Open Boat by Stephen Crane is a story of four man unfortunately stranded in the endless ocean in a small boat. They strive to keep alive by rowing non-stop for two days. And with not enough food with them, it was only their wits and determination that keep them alive. The story depicted nature as indifferent to man. Man had to struggle in order to survive. The captain, the oiler, the cook and the correspondent knew nature’s indifference all too well.  

It represented in a degree, to the correspondent, the serenity of nature amid the struggles of the individual–nature in the wind, and nature in the vision of men. She did not seem cruel to him, nor beneficent, nor treacherous, nor wise. But she was indifferent, flatly indifferent.

They all struggle to fight Nature’s indifference to their plight. Their difficulties in their shipwrecked showed all too well that nature sometimes leaves us to our own devise. To face our difficulties alone without any outward help.

But despite nature’s seeming indifference, there is an important lesson that can be learned from it. ‘It is, perhaps, plausible that a man in this situation, impressed with the unconcern of the universe, should see the innumerable flaws of his life and have them taste wickedly in his mind and wish for another chance. A distinction between right and wrong seems absurdly clear to him, then, in this new ignorance of the grave-edge, and he understands that if he were given another opportunity he would mend his conduct and his words, and be better and brighter during an introduction, or at a tea.’  

Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” helps us realize a few things.  Nature may not put our welfare at the top of its priorities but we always have the company of family and relatives to help us cope in difficulties.  Nature’s seeming unconcerned may make us cynical as in the case of the correspondent but it would also make us realize that the shared difficulties brought about by this indifference will make us better and more human as shown in this line “The correspondent, plying the oars and dreaming of the slow and slower movements of the lips of the soldier, was moved by a profound and perfectly impersonal comprehension. He was sorry for the soldier of the Legion who lay dying in Algiers.”

In the end, the human spirit triumphs because of shared bond as exemplified by the four – captain, oiler, cook and correspondent – in the story.

Open Boat by Crane shows nature’s indifference to man.  Amidst the lead characters’ tribulations – captain, oiler, cook and correspondent – we could see nature unmoved and appearing to be unconcerned.  With no helping hand in sight, Open Boat by Stephen Crane showed that in the face of nature’s seeming indifference, we could still survive by holding on to each other.  We need to rely on each other to be able to withstand nature’s apathy.


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