What is the point of view of "The Open Boat?"

Expert Answers info

Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write3,297 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Science

This is an excellent question because the point of view shifts. Initially, the point of view of "The Open Boat" is told from the point of view of a third person narrator. This third person point of view comes from an objective vantage point, from one ostensibly not in the boat or not a character in the story. 

The perspective shifts to each of the four men at different times but definitely focuses mostly on the perspective of the correspondent. What complicates this shifting is that there are times when it is not clear which character's perspective is being presented. At times during dialogue, the reader is also unable to decipher who is speaking. This is all to underscore what the objective (removed) narrator described as the "subtle brotherhood" at the beginning of Part III. In other words, the shifting narration and lack of clarity about who is speaking highlights the fact that they are all in the same predicament. While each character is surely thinking different thoughts, they all act together out of an instinct of survival and a necessary camaraderie. 

And although the third person narrator is objective, he/she is not omniscient. This leaves the reader, like the narrator and the other characters, to guess and interpret what this shipwrecked experience must be like. In Part I, the objective narrator is not making statements with all knowing power. He/she is making assumptions about what the men might be feeling. 

In the wan light, the faces of the men must have been gray. Their eyes must have glinted in strange ways as they glazed steadily astern. Viewed from a balcony, the whole thing would doubtlessly have been weirdly picturesque. 

Note the verbs used: "must have been." The...

(The entire section contains 585 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial