Stephen Crane's The Open Boat Essay

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Stephen Crane's The Open Boat

Humanity often tends to see itself as being somehow important in the grand scheme of the Universe. We speak of 'fate' as if we were put here for some reason, or purpose. We have our religions, which often serve as an engine to drive our lives and as a means to give meaning to them. But why do we think of ourselves in such a superior fashion? Do we really matter at all? Would the Universe stop if we were suddenly taken away? In his short story, 'The Open Boat,' Stephen Crane shows us a Universe totally unconcerned with the affairs of humankind; it is an indifferent Universe in which Man has to struggle to survive. The characters in the story come face to face with this indifference and are nearly overcome
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The men, however, seem removed from the clockwork of their surroundings; seperate, but somehow in the midst of everything happening around them. This indifference causes the men to feel a certain isolation from nature. They even go as far as to think of the Universe as being hostile: '[The waves were] nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats.'(1) This is, however, just normal activity of nature, not any act of agression against Man.

Although the men are pitted against an uncaring sea, they still at this point seem to think their destinies are controlled by some outside force. Their collective thoughts are given: 'If I am going to be drowned--if I am going to be drowned--if I am going to be drowned, 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?...If this old ninny-woman, Fate, cannot do better than this, she should be deprived of the management of men's fortunes.'(6) It soon dawns on them, though, that there is no 'fate,' no purpose for their being where they are. It is the realization of this fact that brings the men to the brink of despair: 'When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples.'(6) It seems to them that their
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