In Stephen Crane's short story, "The Open Boat," the captain is portrayed as a natural leader who assumes captaincy of the lifeboat after the sinking of the Commodore, and he is largely responsible for the survival of the three men. He is self-sacrificing and honorable and feels conscience-stricken at having failed to save his ship and passengers. He is also coolheaded in moments of crisis and shows a resourceful intelligence, making a sail out of his coat so that the boat will go faster. His main weakness is a nervous tendency to brood on his loss and his failures, which is understandable given what has happened.
The correspondent is the most sensitive of the three men and perhaps the most intelligent. He is somewhat impractical, inclined to philosophical speculation about the nature of the universe rather than attending to the present moment. In a situation where lives are at stake, his sensitivity is both a strength and a weakness. He is unflinching in his determination to face the truth, however terrible it may be.
The cook is the most optimistic and least thoughtful member of the lifeboat's crew. He begins by arguing that they are close to a lighthouse and are bound to be saved. Throughout the narrative, he continues to assume that they are bound to be rescued soon, despite the lack of evidence for this. He is resilient but not particularly intelligent.