While each of the four characters in the story has his own unique relationship with the events taking place, the narrator’s point of view provides the audience with a pragmatic diagnosis of the circumstances. For example, in the second paragraph of the story, the narrator describes the small size of the boat, particularly in contrast to the large, tumultuous waves:
Many a man ought to have a bath-tub larger than the boat which here rode upon the sea. These waves were most wrongfully and barbarously abrupt and tall, and each froth-top was a problem in small boat navigation.
The language is certainly descriptive—using a bathtub as a metaphor is powerful because most bathtubs are built for one person, and the boat contains four. However, this passage is not imbued with personal bias or sentiment. One can read this narrative account as a symbol of the very forces of nature the men find themselves battling. The wind and sea have no personal perspective; they merely exist.
Though the narrator’s point-of-view is objective, it is not omniscient. This small limitation serves a valuable function. It means that instead of overpowering the voices of the story’s characters, the narrator coexists alongside them, providing a juxtaposition between the personal accounts of the characters’ experiences and what is actually happening.
The limits of one’s perception is a recurring theme throughout “The Open Boat.” Ultimately, the narrator’s account of events in contrast to the characters’ personal experiences is a commentary on our own inability to fully see and know the world.