In "The Open Boat," whose voice utters the refrain, "If I am going to be drowned..."?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The men can see the lighthouse and the alleged "house of refuge" by this point. However, they see no signs of life and the cook says, "Funny they don't see us!" He says he wonders why they don't see the boat, but in this statement, he is also frustrated and pleading. They have been through quite an ordeal and now, to have land in sight and to have received no response, no signs of life, was devastating. 

Shortly after the cook comments on the lack of a response from the shore, the statement is repeated: 

"Funny they don't see us," said the men. 

"The men" say it. The style of narration in this story is interesting. The point of view shifts from man to man but we get the most insight from the correspondent. But there is also the point of view of a third person, objective narrator. So, there are times when the narrator speaks for a man or "the men." The narrator does this to show that although each man is different, they are all sharing the same experiences of fear and anxiety. Thus, they are all frustrated and hoping that they will be seen. 

The captain makes sure the men know who to contact if he does not survive. The men exchange information in case of their own potential demises. Following this verbal acknowledgment of possible death, the narrator then speculates what the men might be thinking: 

As for the reflections of the men, there was a great deal of rage in them. Perchance they might be formulated thus: "If I am going to be drowned--if I am going to be drowned--if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees? 

As the men all share the same fears and frustration, it is the narrator who supposes what all four men might be thinking. So, it is the narrator's voice; the narrator is supposing what each man might be thinking in this frustrating moment. 

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The Open Boat

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