Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat" and Nature

Naturalism in "The Open Boat"

Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” emphasizing the struggles of the main characters against nature in a suffocating situation is the story of the perception of four men who represent four types in society. As a work of naturalism that points out that nature domineers and determines anything in the universe, the story is about these four men on a small boat in a dangerously rough sea. Different from many other stories, there are five narrators in “The Open Boat”. The realistic depictions the narrators make show how environmental factors affect human beings.

Among the characters, the only one whose name is revealed is the oiler, Billy, as he is different from others in a certain way. He uses all his strength to help save the boat. However, ironically, while other characters are safe, the strongest and most diligent man dies. The story, in this sense, conveys the idea that no justice in nature does not care about anything. For the reader, the story has a powerful impact since the narrators delineate the waves, water, or their struggle in such a way that the reader feels the same sorrow and fear as the characters. Like most people, the characters put themselves at the center of the universe in the beginning and try to understand what nature wants from them. Although, at first, they think that nature is against them, the characters eventually understand that it is indifferent and has nothing to do with them.

Everything is about perspective in the story. When they see the tourists, for instance, they think that they will survive but from the tourist’s perspective, the characters are experienced fishermen and sailors who know what they are doing. In this sense, human beings have limited vision because they do not look at the same point. Even if they do, their way of seeing characterized by thoughts and feelings limits them. In the story, there is no heroism but brotherhood. They try to help one another but ultimately, the boat begins to sink and none of the characters, except Billy, rely on their strength. The injured captain holds on to his boat. The cook saves himself with the captain’s instructions and the correspondent reaches to the shore thanks to his life jacket. Thus, the fittest character is not Billy -although it seems that way- but other characters who adapt themselves to nature’s uncontrollable force. Billy is confident in his physical strength and does not think that nature is the mightiest. Therefore, he is the one who dies. However, from another perspective, since nature does not care, it does not give any lectures. In this sense, he dies at random like the correspondent living by chance.