What are the ironic circumstances in "The Open Boat"?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stephen Crane is a Naturalistic writer. Naturalistic writers texts focused upon the power of nature over mankind, characters who failed to see that they possessed no free will, and settings which provided environments which were, typically, placed in grottoes, mines, and lower class immigrant workers. During the search for their dream, to succeed/ or make life better for themselves or others, the protagonist fails to accept that they do not have the power to overcome nature. The texts were also written from an objective perspective. What this means is that the author simply is an observer and writes their text from a scientific point-of-view.

This being said, Crane's short story "The Open Boat" provides many distinctly ironic situation.

The corespondent speaks of nature as if it is a "she." (This is typical of the Naturalistic writer- nature is ofter personified.) While a reader comes to understand the relationship between the corespondent and nature as a harmonious one, in the end, the corespondent realizes that he simply does not really know nature. The "relationship" that he imagines with nature is false. The corespondent's thoughts that he could converse with nature offers no solution. The men are always under the threat of nature.

Another ironic situation is the fact that the man thought to be the strongest on the boat is the man to die. The oiler, seen by the other men as the strongest, fails to make it to the shore with the survivors.

One last ironic example from the story is the men in the boat believed the people on the shore where there to save them. The people on the shore believed the men to be fisherman, not in need of saving.


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The Open Boat

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