The Open Boat by Stephen Crane
Stephen Crane’s Open Boat is based on his own experience when he was shipwrecked off the coast of Florida. The story is famous for its philosophical theme of existentialism, powerfully evoked in the line” If I am going to drowned (repeated thrice), why in the name of the seven mad gods, who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees?” (Crane). This opens up an existential view of man’s place in the universe. Man is utterly insignificant and nature, with all its power, has no care for its individual existence. The line was therefore fitting for Billie, the oiler, who did not make it shore. From an existential point of view, one could argue that Billie was not claimed by death; rather he was not worthy to live. Seeing the fine line between death and existence, the survivors had gained an extraordinary experience that could only be brought out by such tragedy—where their life could hang in the balance. Thus, they could be interpreters of existence and it’s opposite. They have conquered death and they have proved to that all powerful nature that they deserve life, which Billie wasn’t able to.
As it happens, the existentialist view comes from the survivors’ examination of their condition while lost at sea. The correspondent—the fictional equivalent of Crane—tries desperately to justify their survive and understand the wrath of nature against them. But his ability to comprehend it all was utterly inadequate. It only seems to him that nature does not care. Nature, or the seven mad gods, as he called it, is indifferent to all the courage, brotherhood and valor that the survivors have shown. They receive no complement or reward to such defiance to survive. Their prayers fall into dead ears and God, it seemed, does not care. It was at this point that Crane found it appropriate to use the word absurd to summarize their misfortune. The sinking of their boat, their life clinging to a...
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