Human Suffering In Stephen Crane's The Open Boat

Words: 1682
Pages: 7

American author Stephen Crane often wrote about the plight of his fellow man, raising awareness about poverty, war, and human suffering. His short story, “The Open Boat,” is a fictional account of a terrifying experience in which Crane witnessed both suffering and self-sacrifice. In the story, four men are forced out to sea on a ten-foot dinghy when their ship sinks. Crane personifies natural elements like the clawing wind and pummeling waves to represent the uncaring and often malevolent universe in which we live. Crane’s characterization of the crew, men dedicated to each other’s survival, represents the bond of brotherhood that should set human nature apart from the uncaring universe. “The Open Boat” illustrates man’s moral obligation to address human suffering by working to rescue people in need. In “The Open Boat,” Crane personifies elements in the universe as antagonistic toward the human race. The elements represent the harsh world around us, which afflicts humankind and causes terrible suffering. First, Crane describes the ill-will of the waves that rise up and surround the dinghy: “The waves were most wrongfully and barbarously abrupt and tall” (133), “nervously anxious to do something in the way of swamping boats” …show more content…
Throughout the ordeal at sea, he bails icy water to keep the boat aloft and remains “cheerful” (138). His character represents the type of person who rolls up their sleeves in times of trouble and gets to work. The cook offers hope to his crewmates: “There’s a house of refuge just north of the Mosquito Inlet Light, and as soon as they see us they’ll come off in their boat and pick us up” (135). The cook doesn’t mention the possibility that they may perish before reaching the inlet, but focuses on survival by remembering the comforts of home, like his favorite type of pie. A hefty man, his body warms the oiler and the correspondent as they rest from laboring at the