Microcosm of Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat"

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“The Open Boat” is a dramatic short story based on Stephen Crane’s own real-life experience, when a ship he was sailing on to Cuba sank in high seas off the coast of Florida. The story opens with four men fighting for their lives in a lifeboat in stormy seas. The men remained in the small craft for thirty hours rowing against the tide and bailing constantly to keep the craft afloat before they were able to come ashore at Daytona Beach. Stephen Crane does not make this story a heart pounding adrenaline rush instead he focuses on man’s relationship to the forces of nature that surrounds them. Also each of the men in the boat must rely on each other in order to survive. Therefore the microcosm in this story is a metaphor for society showing that man’s salvation depends upon whether or not he can adapt to his surroundings and aid his fellow man. The sense of struggle against nature is given in the opening sentence, “None of them knew the color of the sky.” This shows the struggle against nature because they could not take their eyes off the treacherous waters because at any moment any wave could take their lives. None of the characters in the story are trying to be a hero they are all relying on each other and supporting each other in order to survive. Every action they take could be a life or death decision this is depicted when the seagull lands on the captain’s head, Crane says, “The captain naturally wished to knock it away with the end of the heavy painter, but he did not dare do it, because anything resembling an emphatic gesture would have capsized this freighted boat; and so, with his open hand, the captain gently and carefully waved the gull away.”

But the most significant aspect of this struggle lies in the men’s attempts to help one another survive. The passage that best displays the men helping each is when they are swimming to shore where Crane describes the time “when we were swamped by the surf and making the best of our way...
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