The Open Boat Questions and Answers
by Stephen Crane

The Open Boat book cover
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How is the first paragraph of the story "The Open Boat" important to the passage as a whole?

The first paragraph of the story "The Open Boat" is important because it shows us the predicament of the men in the open boat. The men are stranded at sea, and as the opening paragraph tells us, their eyes are fixed upon the waves. That these waves are gray is also important, as the grim color of the ocean foreshadows the many dangers that lie ahead.

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The opening paragraph efficiently establishes the setting, tone, and inner worlds of the characters within "The Open Boat." The men are trapped on the open sea in a lifeboat. The water and sky are both gray, and they are so stressed and frightened that they apparently cannot tell where the sky ends and the sea begins as they try to row the boat to shore.

Firstly, the color gray is prominent in the passage. Gray is usually associated with two concepts: despair and tedium. The men are certainly in despair about their desperate situation, but the situation, scary as it is, is also tedious. They are constantly falling and rising on the waves without an end in sight.

The unending grayness also suggests uncertainty. The men are rowing their boat but do not know where they are going. They cannot use the sky as a guide, and there is no shoreline in sight. This uncertainty will soon become philosophical as well as physical once the men start to consider that there is no force in the universe that...

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