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Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” focuses on four characters

Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” focuses on four characters, the Captain, the Oiler (Billie), the Correspondent, and the Cook, on a voyage to Cuba their steamer commodore sinks. Stuck on a tiny boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean stranded at the mercy of nature. Crane establishes the major conflict of man vs nature which supports the theme: men are subjected to the will of nature and no matter how much they struggle to survive; nature will depict the outcome unwillingly. Crane develops this theme through the use of personification, symbolism, and repetition.
Crane utilizes personification throughout his writing to convey the power of nature. Crane gives the sea animal like characteristics when he states the waves “snarl and are wild” (Crane). This is comparing the waves to fierce animals in the wild which supports the theme that nature is cruel or sportive, taunting or easeful, yet it has no other motive but the exercise of its own power. In addition, Crane makes the concept of Fate, a women character by saying, “If this old ninny-woman, Fate, cannot do better than this, she should be deprived of the management of men’s fortunes. She is an old hen who knows not of her intention.” (Crane). By developing this perspective of Fate, Crane shows the determination while the ignorance of the men believing mans’ fortune is superior than natures fate.
Secondly, he uses symbolism to create a connection with the reader by using Billie, the oiler, who is the only character named. By doing so he symbolizes self-importance against the mindless power of nature. Despite the oiler being the most physically able and the most determined to survive he drowns in the shallow water just off shore while the other characters are saved by what appears to be by random chance. On the other hand, death is symbolized in “The Open Boat” by a shark. When the shark appears only the correspondent is awake to see it and his reaction is not necessarily afraid, yet almost enlightened. The arrival of the shark marks a change in the way the correspondent views’ nature, and placing more value and importance on the moments he has left rather than fearing death itself. Although the correspondent does not fear death anymore he still questions why his fate has brought him all this way if it is all just to die, whereas expressed through the use of repetition.