Man and Nature in Stephen Crane's The Blue Hotel and The Open Boat

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Man and Nature in The Blue Hotel and The Open Boat

Stephen Crane uses a massive, ominous stove, sprawled out in a tiny room and burning with "god-like violence," as a principal metaphor to communicate his interpretation of the world. Full of nearly restrained energy, the torrid stove is a symbol of the burning, potentially eruptive earth to which humans "cling" and of which they are a part. As a literary naturalist, Crane interpreted reality from a Darwinian perspective, and saw the earth driven by adamant natural laws, violent and powerful laws which are often hostile to humans and their societies, and he conceived of humans as accidents, inhabiting a harsh, irrational, dangerous world. Crane's famous depiction of the
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In "The Open Boat," Crane writes of the "EXPERIENCE OF FOUR MEN FROM THE SUNK STEAMER COMMODORE" (743). Having escaped the sunken ship, the four men--the cook, the correspondent, the oiler, and the captain--are now in a dinghy sailing obstinately in the midst of a seething ocean for the coast of Florida. From the beginning of the story till the end, one can admire these honest men, who confront such a dangerous environment.

One passage that comes early in the story shows their honest acceptance of reality: "A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats" (744). Passages like this one in which the characters personify nature in a negative way abound in this story. Of course, no wave is "nervously anxious," but this interpretation of reality--as opposed to the interpretation that the characters of "The Blue Hotel" give--is one that actually attempts to point out some truth about dangerous nature; the men, in their human way, are accepting nature as it is. The joyless
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