The Open Boat

Decent Essays
American naturalism is a writing technique that was popular along with another major movement, realism, after the Civil War period until around 1910 or 1920. It was an extreme form of realism that moved away from the middle class focus of the realists and pertained more to the dregs of society. Naturalism’s largest difference from realism was the deterministic nature and view of the works written with naturalistic modes. One of the better-known naturalists, Stephen Crane, practiced this technique, and in his story, "The Open Boat," Stephen Crane portrays the men on the boat as representatives of human endurance in an indifferent universe against which they are helpless.

Crane’s short story seems to have a hopeless theme that also contributes to its cynical and morbid view of life. Throughout the story, the tone is very somber and dull from beginning to the end. Whether it be struggling against waves, sharks, their muscles, or their psyche, they seem to always be struggling. The thing that lead to Crane’s pessimistic view was the belittling of the central characters. This tone is very naturalistic because it has a feeling of cut-throat life and little control. The characters are always hopeless because they are not agents of free will, as the realists believed, but they are puppets to the ocean and the winds and their dingy.
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As a story of naturalism, whether that is fate, nature, or a force beyond those two, Crane’s characters are left to the randomness of external forces. In the case of “The Open Boat,” the forces affecting the character are largely ones of nature and fate. What the men don’t understand is that fate is not the reason for all of their shortcomings; it is merely random and uncontrollable. Fate was not playing with them; it ultimately had nothing to do with
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