Naturalism in "The Open Boat"

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February 24 2012
Essay 1
Word Count: 1515
Olivia Calder
“The Open Boat”

“The Open Boat” is a short story written by Steven Crane about four men stranded on a dinghy after their boat had sunk over night. The men were struggling to stay alive because it seemed as if they had no hope for survival. The four stranded shipmen were a correspondent, an oiler, a cook, and a captain. The theme of the story is that man has no control over his destinies and that nature controls everything. Naturalist themes prevail in Stephen Crane's “The Open Boat” as it demonstrates naturalist literature through the struggle that nature throws at the men. Naturalism arises throughout the men’s constant battle between their surrounding environment and keeping their hope for survival. The only way the men were able to survive was persistence, because the indifferent universe did not care what their results were.

Steven Crane’s inspiration in writing “The Open Boat” was from his own personal real life experience. Crane sailed out from Jacksonville, Florida and was stranded in a dinghy on the Atlantic Ocean. On New Years Eve of 1896, Crane headed for Cuba as a correspondent. His ship sank two days later on January 2nd, along with three crewmembers just like he writes in “The Open Boat”. Besides Steven Crane writing about his own occurrence, he writes about the symbolic effects of fighting for survival against all odds that are indifferent about one’s life. In his life story, he is the correspondent while the captain, the cook, and the oiler are also real-life men who shared the dinghy. Although this story is based off his experience, he used the characters in the book as examples of humanity and how they get submitted to the changes and roughness nature throws.

In an online source by Jason Voegele, the author gives a great definition for literary naturalism; “A story containing literary naturalism has been defined as one which ‘emphasizes the role of environment upon...
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