The Open Boat Questions and Answers
by Stephen Crane

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How is Marxist criticism applied to the short story "The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane?

Marxist criticism can be applied to Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat" if one considers the way class distinctions dissolve during the men's experience. Because they meet on common ground outside of the context of the class system, they can know each other as people, not as members of a capitalist system.

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One could argue that "The Open Boat" is amenable to a Marxist interpretation—however strained—in that it reveals the existence of a common human nature beneath the artificialities of class distinction. Despite the shipwrecked men coming from a variety of different social backgrounds, they are all in the same boat, both literally and figuratively. Out there on the ocean waves, their social class means nothing; all that matters is survival, which requires that everyone put aside their social differences and work for the good of all.

On dry land, the men would almost certainly never come into contact with each other as men. They would be, in Marxist terms, involved in the kind of...

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