In "The Open Boat," how does hopelessness dominate the mood of the story?

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juneamy007 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane, is a fictionalization of a real occurrence in his life.  Its portrayal of the sinking of a steamship and the survival of four men is overflowing with the emotions felt by the occupants of the 10' dinghy.

Hopelessness dominates the narrative due to the fact that the men are forced to realize that, despite their positions on Earth, they are helpless against an impartial Mother Nature.

For almost two days, the men are trapped by circumstances beyond their control.  Though their standings in life are diverse -  the injured steamship captain, an ambivalent writer/reporter, the portly ship's cook, and the robust oiler - they find themselves equally at the folly of nature.

Their circumstances lead them to be riled at one another.  Soon they realize the futility of those feelings and start to empathize with each other.  Finally, they realize their only hope is to be found in the indifference of nature.  That proves to be little hope, if any.

The final blow of the folly of pitting themselves against the earthy forces is when they finally swim to shore and it is the "fittest" of them that succumbs to the sea and drowns.

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The Open Boat

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