Published in 1897, "The Open Boat" is based on an actual incident from Stephen Crane's life in January of that year. While traveling to Cuba to work as a newspaper correspondent during the Cuban insurrection against Spain, Crane was stranded at sea for thirty hours after his ship, the Commodore, sank off the coast of Florida. Crane and three other men were forced to navigate their way to shore in a small boat. One of the men, an oiler named Billy Higgins, drowned while trying to swim to shore. Crane wrote the story "The Open Boat" soon afterward. The story tells of the travails of four men shipwrecked at sea who must make their way to shore in a dinghy. Crane's grippingly realistic depiction of their life-threatening ordeal captures the sensations and emotions of struggle for survival against the forces of nature. Because of the work's philosophical speculations, it is often classified as a work of Naturalism, a literary offshoot of the Realist movement. "The Open Boat" has proved an enduring classic that speaks to the timeless experience of suffering a close call with death.
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