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In the story "The Open Boat" what do the cigars and matches symbolize?

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lena890 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 19, 2008 at 10:32 AM via web

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In the story "The Open Boat" what do the cigars and matches symbolize?

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lewismct | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted July 20, 2008 at 12:34 AM (Answer #1)

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After the men see the lighthouse, the correspondent finds eight cigars in the "top pocket of his coat".  Four were soaked and  "four were perfectly scatheless" someone found three matches and the "with an assurance of an impending rescue shining in their eyes, puffed at the big cigars and judged well and ill of all men. Everybody took a drink of water."  When the men smoke the cigars together it is symbolic of their closeness and also a celebration that they think they will be rescued.  It is also notable that four cigars were drenched and four were dry.  This adds to the suspense concerning the outcome for the men--will they be drenched or dry.  Who might survive?  Who might drown?

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