Nature's Indifference In "The Open Boat"

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Title: Stephen Crane’s use of symbolism in order to emphasize themes of nature’s indifference and lack of compassion to man in “The Open Boat” “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane tells the tales of four men, who, in an aftermath of a shipwreck, are stranded on a tiny open dinghy. Here they are forced to battle and struggle against the crushing forces of nature, all the while suffering immense psychological and physical distress. Although the setting is more suited for an adventure tale; Stephen Crane’s recollection focuses less on the adrenaline-filled aspect of danger, and more on the overwhelming forces of nature and its indifference to mankind; his recollection is wrought with symbolism reflecting and emphasizing such motifs as nature’s indifference and man’s insignificance in nature. In this essay, I will discuss how symbolism is used in “The Open Boat” to reflect and portray Man’s insignificance in nature, as well as Nature’s indifference to man’s plight. In the beginning, the waves are the primary obstacle of which they must overcome: “None of them knew the color of the sky. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the waves that swept toward them.”(410), indeed, the waves serve as an irrevocable nuisance to the protagonists; who are forced to battle with its unpredictability throughout the story. Stephen Crane’s use of words such as “barbarously” (410) and “abruptly” (410) in his description of the waves serves to demonstrate the sheer force of which they have to overcome; he also incorporates images of white flames, horses scrambling over walls of water, and tumbling snow, in his efforts to emphasize the sheer power of the waves, and hence the power of nature. All the while, the four men are left to battle these forces in a dinghy, bedridden and exhausted, In this sense, the waves symbolise the mercilessness of nature; the men’s plight
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