The Open Boat: Crane's View of Naturalism Essay

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To define one's purpose is at the very least human nature and at the very most the meaning of life. Humans seek the significance of existence and try to define it in many ways. There are thousands of religions and countless seminars to help people discover the point of human existence. The idea that we may all be irrelevant in the grand scheme of life or to the universe is not a popular position. In his short story "The Open Boat" Stephen Crane shows a universe that is unconcerned with the struggles of four men within a small boat lost at sea. Through the characters' experiences Crane shows the human struggle to survive as viewed in a naturalistic perspective as opposed to other prevalent 19th Century concepts.

There are four
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When they exchange addresses after they realize that all of them may not make it to shore, the men say, "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" (369). The men believe that it would be "an abominable injustice to drown a man who had worked so hard, so hard [to survive]. The man felt it would be a crime most unnatural. Other people had drowned at sea since galleys swarmed with painted sails, but still" (377). Here Crane is pointing out the reality that these men are victims of circumstance, and if they survive it will be chance rather than fate. The narrator says, "When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples" (377). This is an important point in the story because these ideas go against many 19th century thoughts. Transcendentalists believed that moral and physical laws remained within the individual who was connected to nature by God and through self. Clearly the realization that nature was indifferent to the sailor's outcome challenges the idea that nature has anything to do with the fate or
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