How does Crane’s use of description add to the effectiveness of "The Open Boat"?
An example of Crane's description opens the story and illustrates how description adds to the story's effectiveness. First, Crane's description adds dramatic tension. The first descriptive line, "None of them knew the color of the sky" immediately adds dramatic tension. The reader asks, "Who? Why not? How is that possible?" As a result, an impossible situation full of dramatic tension is instantly opened up before the reader. This adds to the effectiveness of the story because, first and foremost, Crane wants the reader to feel--along with the characters--the power of the impossible situation they are in at sea in their open boat.
The dramatic tension is heightened later in that same paragraph when Crane writes that the sea's "edge was jagged with waves that seemed thrust up in points like rocks." In this implied metaphor (the sea is rocks), which embodies contrast between the fluid sea and crushingly hard rocks, Crane introduces danger and imminent peril. This metaphorical description adds to the effectiveness because in the opening paragraph the reader is thus thrust into a situation of grave crushing danger.
Another example occurs a bit later on. The narrator describes how the waves come. He says they come with "grace" in "silence":
There was a terrible grace in the move of the waves, and they came in silence, save for the snarling of the crests.
This description wraps the men and the waves in a blanket of silence. This adds to the effectiveness of the story by creating a deep and impenetrable isolation around the men--an isolation bred in soundlessness. We know, even if we know little else about the ocean, that it has a mighty roar. To remove this and replace it with silence removes the men from common experience and embeds them in unreachable isolation.
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