Stephen Crane mentions several details about the dingy. What is the significance of these details?  

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The dingy is described as small and cramped, filled with four men who are desperately trying to get to short. The details about the dingy help to emphasize the physical danger and discomfort of the men. Crane says:

"Many a man ought to have a bath-tub larger than the boat which here rode upon the sea."

Since the boat was so small, even small waves posed a danger to the men of swamping the boat. Crane says

"each froth-top was a problem in small boat navigation."

Even the oar with which the men steared was inadequate to the task.

"It [the oar] was a thin little oar and it seemed often ready to snap."

In addition, the men were very uncomfortable in the dingy.

"The craft pranced and reared, and plunged like animal." The boat would "would slide, and race, and splash down a long incline and arrive bobbing and nodding in front of the next menace."

Crane is pointing out the hopelessness of their condition and also the irony that they are so close to shore that they can see the outlines of buildings. So, the keep asking the question, if I'm going to die, why have I been allowed to come this far? By describing the dingy and the men in it, Crane reinforces the theme that life is not always fair.

Read the study guide:
The Open Boat

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