Why is it that only that oiler dies and not anyone else in Crane's "The Open Boat"?

Expert Answers info

Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write6,732 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

Billie, the oiler, is hardworking and the most physically capable person in the boat. Used to difficult manual labor, he is strong and can endure hours and hours of rowing in the small boat. The narrator tells us that, prior to the boat's sinking, "the oiler had worked double-watch in the engine-room of the ship." Despite the fact that he does take orders from the captain, he listens to the captain tell him where to row the boat, the oiler seems—in many ways—to be a leader. He helps take charge as their boat gets closer to shore, advising the others how to proceed. Further, after the dingy capsizes, "the oiler was ahead in the race" to swim to shore. "He was swimming strongly and rapidly."

We have every reason to believe that if anyone is going to survive all of these disasters, it will be Billie. He is even the only character to get a name, another way Crane encourages readers to sympathize with him—by decreasing the distance between the audience and this character. We are...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 750 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12), Professional Writer

bookB.A. from Calvin University

bookM.A. from Dordt University


calendarEducator since 2014

write5,858 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and History

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

rdb919 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write176 answers

starTop subjects are Literature and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial