Where is "God" (or where are "gods") in "The Open Boat"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a naturalist, Crane was keen to stress the way that men were powerless in the face of the might of nature. As a result, God or any gods are not mentioned in this short story. Such a focus on divine intervention would have removed the emphasis on man's inherent frailty in the face of nature. Note how nature is expressed in the following quote:

As the boat bounced from the top of each wave the wind tore through the hair of the hatless men, and as the craft plopped her stern down again the spray slashed past them. The crest of each of these waves was a hill, from the top of which the men surveyed for a moment a broad tumultuous expanse, shining and wind-riven.

The description of the sea and in particular the metaphor comparing the crest of the waves to hills serves to emphasise the way that nature is so vast and strong compared to the tiny boat that is the only thing protecting the men from certain death. As the fate of the men shows, Crane is keen to point out that in the face of such power, it is only luck that can save humans, as the death of the oiler demonstrates. He was far stronger than the correspondent, but in the end, his strength did not save him. Crane presents the reader with a world where the forces of nature completely dominate men and humans are left helpless in response.

Read the study guide:
The Open Boat

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