(Short Story Criticism)

“The Open Boat” Stephen Crane

(Full name Stephen Townley Crane;i also wrote under the pseudonym Johnston Smith) American short story writer, novelist, poet, and journalist.

The following entry presents criticism of Crane's short story “The Open Boat,” which was published in 1898. See also, Stephen Crane Criticism.

“The Open Boat” is considered to be one of the great sea tales of world literature. The story is based upon Crane's experience as a correspondent shipwrecked while on a filibustering expedition to supply Cuban revolutionaries in 1896. His report of the incident appeared in the New York Press on January 7, 1897, and was written in fictional form a year later. “The Open Boat” pits a handful of men stranded for days in a lifeboat against the destructive power of an indifferent, though violent, sea. Critics note that Crane uses vivid imagery throughout this story to underscore both the beauty and terror of natural forces and to convey the antagonism between the survivors and the sea, which Crane viewed as indicative of the struggle of the all humanity against nature.

Plot and Major Characters

“The Open Boat” is a story divided into seven parts and with a shifting point of view, which functions to illustrate how the incident would be interpreted from the perspective of the four characters as well as an outside observer. The first section introduces the four characters—the correspondent, the captain, the cook, and the oiler, Billy Higgins—who have survived a shipwreck and are drifting at sea in a small dinghy. These four characters are represented as types: the correspondent is a pretentious, erudite, and mocking observer; the cook is fat and comic; the captain is morose and indifferent; and the oiler is physically strong and industrious. In the following four sections, the moods of the men fluctuate from anger at their desperate situation and what they perceive to be a hostile sea to a growing empathy for one another and the sudden realization that nature is not hostile—just indifferent to their fate. When they see a lighthouse on the horizon, their hopefulness is tempered with the realization that it would be too dangerous to attempt to reach it. The final chapter begins with the dawn of a new day and the resolution of the men to swim ashore. As they begin the long swim to the beach, the captain, the correspondent, and the cook swim together and hold onto parts of the boat; the strongest of the bunch, Billy Higgins, swims ahead alone. After the three men reach shore safely, they find Billy dead on the beach.

Major Themes

Critics regard the central themes of “The Open Boat” to be man's eternal struggle against nature, the fragility of human existence, the struggle for survival, and the power of community. The story is viewed as an exploration of human behavior under extreme circumstances and the maturation of man from isolated and indifferent to compassionate and an integral part of society. Symbolically, the boat has been perceived as both a microcosm of society and a vehicle of escape, and the experience on the dinghy as a metaphor for the individual journey to self-knowledge. The story has also been regarded as an apt allegory for Crane's short but eventful life: a constant battle with internal elements that led to his outstanding artistic achievement but also his early death. Commentators have identified Christian motifs in “The Open Boat,” and some view Billy's death as Christ-like. Other critics perceive Billy's death as naturalistic—a strong, vital man losing his struggle to survive in an indifferent world. Others note that because of Billy's strength and generosity he rose above the pathos of his situation and truly enhanced the lives of his community.

Critical Reception

“The Open Boat” has been widely anthologized and is considered among Crane's major achievements in the short story genre. It has been the subject of a myriad of critical interpretations. Foremost, commentators have considered the story as naturalistic, realistic, impressionistic, or existentialist in nature. Recent studies have deemed it a prime example of the genre of literary nonfiction. Stylistically, critics note Crane's use of irony and praise his shifting perspectives in the story. Moreover, they explore his changing tone and narrative style in “The Open Boat.” Several commentators approach the story from an autobiographical perspective to determine how much of “The Open Boat” is derived from Crane's personal experiences in 1896. Others have elucidated links between Caroline Norton's poem “Bingen on the Rhine” and Crane's story. Critics have traced Crane's developing sense of the value of human community from The Red Badge of Courage (1895) to “The Open Boat” and often compare the story to the sea tales of Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad. Considered a masterpiece of the modern short story, “The Open Boat” remains Crane's most important work of short fiction.

Principal Works

(Short Story Criticism)

The Little Regiment, and Other Episodes of the American Civil War 1896

The Open Boat, and Other Tales of Adventure 1898; also published as The Open Boat and Other Stories, 1898

The Monster, and Other Stories 1899

Whilomville Stories 1900

Wounds in the Rain: A Collection of Stories Relating to the Spanish-American War of 1898 1900

Last Words (short stories and sketches) 1902

Men, Women, and Boats 1921

The Sullivan County Sketches (sketches and short stories) 1949

Stephen Crane: An Omnibus (poetry, short stories, and novels) 1952

The Complete Short Stories and Sketches of Stephen Crane 1963

The New York City Sketches of Stephen Crane, and Related Pieces (sketches and short stories) 1966

The Works of Stephen Crane. 10 vols. (poetry, short stories, novels, and journalism) 1969-72

The Western Writings of Stephen Crane 1979

Stephen Crane: Prose and Poetry (novels, novellas, short stories, sketches, journalism, and poetry) 1984

Stephen Crane: Prose and Poetry (poetry, journalism, and short stories) 1988

The Blue Hotel and Selected Works 1991

The Red Badge of Courage, and Other Stories (short stories and novel) 1991

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (A Story of New York) [as Johnston Smith] (novel) 1893; revised as Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, 1896

The Black Riders, and Other Lines (poetry) 1895

The Red Badge of Courage: An Episode of the American Civil War (novel) 1895

George's Mother (novel) 1896

The Third Violet (novel) 1896

Active Service (novel) 1899

War is Kind (poetry) 1899

The O'Ruddy [completed by Robert Barr] (novel) 1903

The Collected Poems of Stephen Crane (poetry) 1930

Stephen Crane: Letters (letters) 1960

The Complete Novels of Stephen Crane (novels) 1967

(review date 7 May 1898)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Review of The Open Boat, by Stephen Crane. Literature 2 (7 May 1898): 535-36.

[In the following review, the anonymous critic surveys the strengths of Crane's short fiction through an analysis of “The Open Boat.”]

For the reader's information, we may say at once that this is a book to read, that is, if the reader does not expect too much from a writer who has been so unanimously praised as Mr. Crane. Nor do we dissent from the praise that has been bestowed upon him, although his admirers have been a little extravagant in their laudation. As far as we can judge—and Mr. Crane has not as yet written a great deal—his position in literature is in some ways peculiar. He has in a very unusual degree the power of bringing a scene, no matter what, before our eyes by a few graphic phrases. His subjects are not always interesting; it is his way of presenting them that is everything. In this respect he resembles those painters who care little for the subject but more for the method of their art, and are called, for want of a better term, Impressionists. To this extent, with his carefully-chosen details, his insistence on the main theme, and his avoidance of irrelevance, Mr. Crane is an Impressionist, and not a mere descriptive writer. His book must not be regarded as a collection of short stories. They are incidents rather than stories, and are selected, not for their dramatic interest, which the author apparently wishes to exclude, but as a vehicle for the telling touches in which he paints aspects of nature, or analyses human emotions. When a writer works in this manner, generally, it must be admitted, with less success than Mr. Crane, his friends as a rule urge him to sustained efforts of which he is not capable, and lament that he does not write a “regular novel.” For ourselves, we see no evidence in these sketches that Mr. Crane is equal to any such undertaking. The sketches are complete in themselves, and owe their effectiveness to that fact, and by no means to their intrinsic interest; nor do they seem to contain raw material that might be further developed. This is their peculiarity, that they all have the one same merit, without which, to say the truth, they would be somewhat poor reading. Some of them are so extremely slight that one is tempted to think that almost any other ordinary incident would have served Mr. Crane's purpose equally well. We can assure him that the value of his work, and the reader's pleasure, would be much increased if he chose his...

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Gorham B. Munson (essay date 1929)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Munson, Gorham B. “Prose for Fiction: Stephen Crane.” In Style and Form in American Prose, pp. 159-70. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1929.

[In the following essay, Munson outlines the plot of “The Open Boat” and provides a stylistic analysis of the story.]


So much has been said about le mot juste and so little about le ton juste! Yet failure or success in writing depends more upon the latter than upon the first. By an edifying accident, in the collection of Stephen Crane's short stories known in the Modern Library series as Men, Women, and Boats, his greatest...

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Peter Buitenhuis (essay date autumn 1959)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Buitenhuis, Peter. “The Essentials of Life: ‘The Open Boat’ as Existential Fiction.” Modern Fiction Studies 5, no. 3 (autumn 1959): 243-50.

[In the following essay, Buitenhuis discusses “The Open Boat” as existentialist fiction, contending that “no story of Crane more profoundly embodies within its structure, style, and symbolism the meaning of experience.”]

Stephen Crane's “The Open Boat” is not a naturalistic story, although it has often been labelled as such.1 The protagonist, in the interpretation of his own experience in the boat, transcends the limits of naturalistic philosophy and makes the kind of affirmation that has...

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Ralph Ross John Berryman, and Allen Tate (essay date 1960)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Ross, Ralph John Berryman, and Allen Tate. “Stephen Crane: The Open Boat.” In The Arts of Reading, pp. 254-88. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1960.

[In the following essay, Ross, Berryman, and Tate investigate whether “The Open Boat” is based on a true story and provides an analysis of the first paragraph and the cast of characters in the piece.]


The other stories we have studied have been definitely stories, invented things. Babel's epic figure Benya Kirk is said to have had an original, or model, in some actual Odessa gangster, but how fully the author's imagination is at work in that story we have seen. A story...

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Mordecai Marcus (essay date April 1962)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Marcus, Mordecai. “The Three-Fold View of Nature in ‘The Open Boat’.” Philological Quarterly 61, no. 2 (April 1962): 511-15.

[In the following essay, Marcus delineates Crane's changing view of nature in “The Open Boat” as“malevolently hostile, then as thoughtlessly hostile, and finally as wholly indifferent.”]

Most commentators on Stephen Crane's story “The Open Boat” remark that it shows nature as indifferent or as simultaneously indifferent and cruel. I believe, however, that the story's major themes and structure grow out of a slowly changing three-fold view of nature which is revealed in the characters' thoughts: they see nature first as...

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Charles R. Metzger (essay date October 1962)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Metzger, Charles R. “Realistic Devices in Stephen Crane's ‘The Open Boat’.” The Midwest Quarterly 4, no. 1 (October 1962): 47-54.

[In the following essay, Metzger examines the realistic elements in “The Open Boat.”]

There is some argument among critics over the question of whether Stephen Crane's fiction is classically realistic or classically naturalistic. Accepting the working definition of naturalism as pessimistic realism, we can, if we wish, turn from the critic's argument over whether Crane is a realistic writer or a naturalistic one to consideration of realistic elements in his writing, leaving to others the determination of whether or not...

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William Randel (essay date November 1962)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Randel, William. “The Cook in ‘The Open Boat’.” American Literature 34, no. 3 (November 1962): 405-11.

[In the following essay, Randel investigates discrepancies in the real-life incident that inspired Crane's story “The Open Boat.”]

On December 31, 1896, the filibuster Commodore left Jacksonville with a cargo of guns and ammunition for the insurgent army in Cuba. Instead of slipping away surreptitiously, eluding the government cutters that for months had been harassing all ships suspected of filibustering intentions, she set out with official permission, to the considerable bewilderment of Stephen Crane scholars—for Crane's presence...

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William T. Going (essay date winter 1963)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Going, William T. “William Higgins and Crane's ‘The Open Boat’: A Note about Fact and Fiction.” Papers on English Language & Literature 1, no. 1 (winter 1963): 79-82.

[In the following essay, Going traces the treatment of William Higgins's death in newspaper accounts and in “The Open Boat.”]

Stephen Crane's “The Open Boat” is, according to its subtitle, “A Tale Intended to Be after the Fact. Being the Experience of Four Men from the Sunk Steamer ‘Commodore.’” The story begins at the very point where Crane ends his journalistic account for the New York Press (January 7, 1897): “The history of life in an open boat for thirty...

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Robert Meyers (essay date April 1963)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Meyers, Robert. “Crane's ‘The Open Boat’.” The Explicator 21, no. 8 (April 1963): 60

[In the following essay, Meyers argues that critical studies of “The Open Boat” have overlooked “the degree to which the tale seems to invert conventional Christian motifs and rituals while it traces the development of a new religion.”]

It is common to interpret Stephen Crane's short story “The Open Boat” as a naturalistic reading of life, as the author's “apostrophe to the new Darwinian cosmos of blind forces—of chance and cosmic indifference” (Maxwell Geismar, Rebels and Ancestors, p. 99). Few will quarrel with this judgment. What may have...

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Eric Solomon (essay date 1966)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Solomon, Eric. “The Destructive Element.” In Stephen Crane: From Parody to Realism, pp. 145-76. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966.

[In the following essay, Solomon notes the lack of parodic elements in “The Open Boat” and situates it within the context of Crane's other sea pieces.]

To the maiden
The sea was blue meadow,
Alive with little froth-people
To the sailor, wrecked,
The sea was dead grey walls
Superlative in vacancy,
Upon which nevertheless at fateful time
Was written
The grim hatred of nature.

—Crane, War Is Kind, III

“The Open Boat” is one of the great sea tales of world...

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John T. Frederick (essay date April 1968)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Frederick, John T. “The Fifth Man in ‘The Open Boat’.” The CEA Critic 30, no. 7 (April 1968): 1, 12-14.

[In the following essay, Frederick considers a few different critical approaches to “The Open Boat” and perceives the story to be “an intense paradigm of the human situation as a whole.”]

I often wonder what other professed teachers of literature think and feel when they are confronted by the collocation of a large class and a masterpiece, and the implicit obligation to bring the two into some measure of significant relationship. Within the last few days I have read Stephen Crane's “The Open Boat” for perhaps the twentieth and twenty-first...

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Donna Gerstenberger (essay date 1971-1972)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Gerstenberger, Donna. “‘The Open Boat’: Additional Perspective.” Modern Fiction Studies 17 (1971-1972): 557-61.

[In the following essay, Gerstenberger views “The Open Boat” as “a story with an emphasis on the epistemological aspect of the existential crisis.”]

Stephen Crane's “The Open Boat” is generally acknowledged to be among the masterpieces of the modern short story. The question of the story's excellence has never been debated; the only questions have been the proper means of defining the story's modernity and of accounting for what appear to be certain awkwardnesses of style, tone, and point of view.

“The Open...

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George Monteiro (essay date fall 1972)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Monteiro, George. “The Logic Beneath ‘The Open Boat’.” The Georgia Review 25, no. 3 (fall 1972): 326-35.

[In the following essay, Monteiro argues that “The Open Boat” is an exploration of the fragility of human existence and the fickle nature of fate.]

Coming at last to the conclusion that man's freedom lies somewhere between Fate and, as he termed it, a “Beautiful Necessity,” Ralph Waldo Emerson turned to the figure of shipwrecks and castaways to convey his sense of the individual human being's precarious hold upon life within the province of Nature. “I seemed in the height of a tempest to see men overboard struggling in the waves, and driven...

(The entire section is 3488 words.)

E. R. Hagemann (essay date 1972)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hagemann, E. R. “‘Sadder than the End’: Another Look at ‘The Open Boat’.” In Stephen Crane in Transition: Centenary Essays, edited by Joseph Katz, pp. 66-85. Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1972.

[In the following essay, Hagemann provides an interpretation of the epigraph to “The Open Boat” and analyzes the ways in which the characters in the story perceive their situation.]


Toward the end of “Stephen Crane's Own Story,” a newspaper account of the sinking of the filibustering S. S. Commodore, the newspaperman says:

The history of life in an open boat for...

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James Nagel (essay date 1973)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Nagel, James. “The Narrative Method of ‘The Open Boat’.” Revue des Langues Vivantes (1973): 409-17.

[In the following essay, Nagel explores Crane's narrative method in “The Open Boat,” particularly the shifting perspective of the story.]

Stephen Crane's “The Open Boat”1 is one of the most frequently read and discussed stories in American literature. But despite the enormous interest in the story, it has tended to evoke far more praise than understanding, particularly with regard to its narrative technique. This admiration has not been restrained: R. W. Stallman has called it a “flawless construct of paradox and...

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James Nagel (essay date March 1975)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Nagel, James. “Impressionism in ‘The Open Boat’ and ‘A Man and Some Others’.” Research Studies 43, no. 1 (March 1975): 27-37.

[In the following essay, Nagel elucidates impressionistic elements in “The Open Boat” and “A Man and Some Others.”]

Late in 1897, only two months after their first meeting, Joseph Conrad wrote a brief letter to Stephen Crane praising his short stories “A Man and Some Others” and “The Open Boat,” both of which had appeared earlier that year.1 After expressing his excitement, “I want to swear at you, to bless you—perhaps to shoot you—but I prefer to be your friend,” he went on to say:


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Herb Stappenbeck (essay date February 1976)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Stappenbeck, Herb. “Crane's ‘The Open Boat’.” The Explicator 34, no. 1 (February 1976): 41.

[In the following essay, Stappenbeck explores the link between “The Open Boat” and Caroline Norton's poem “Bingen on the Rhine.”]

Stephen Crane's “The Open Boat” has been the subject of numerous commentaries, many of which agree that the central theme concerns man's relation to nature and his relation to his fellow man. Some of these readers have seen as a major link between these two relationships Caroline E. S. Norton's “Bingen on the Rhine,” a poem that the correspondent had memorized as a child and that “mysteriously entered [his] head”...

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Robert Schulman (essay date November 1978)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Schulman, Robert. “Community, Perception, and the Development of Stephen Crane: From The Red Badge to ‘The Open Boat’.” American Literature 50, no. 3 (November 1978): 441-60.

[In the following essay, Schulman traces Crane's growing sense of community in his fiction, which culminates in his story “The Open Boat.”]

Sixty years before Crane's “The Open Boat,” Tocqueville described the settlers of the virgin land: “The desire of prosperity has become an ardent and restless passion in their minds, which grows by what it feeds on. They early broke the ties that bound them to their natal earth, and they have contracted no fresh ones on their...

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Bert Bender (essay date spring 1979)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Bender, Bert. “The Nature and Significance of ‘Experience’ in ‘The Open Boat’.” The Journal of Narrative Technique 9, no. 2 (spring 1979): 70-80.

[In the following essay, Bender investigates the religious overtones of the concept of personal experience in “The Open Boat.”]

It is an eye-opening experience for most readers when they learn that “The Open Boat” is based on Stephen Crane's own harrowing experience. And there is no question that what happened at sea on those January days of 1897 opened the author's own eyes; he would not forget it, even on his death-bed, where he murmured deliriously about changing places in an open...

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William K. Spofford (essay date autumn 1979)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Spofford, William K. “Stephen Crane's ‘The Open Boat’.” American Literary Realism 12, no. 2 (autumn 1979): 316-21.

[In the following essay, Spofford argues that an examination of “The Open Boat” “in relation to Crane's earlier fiction, poetry, journalism, and letters reveals that Crane had articulated his themes and formulated his motifs and images long before the incident, and his recounting of the thirty hours in an open boat merely provided the vehicle for these materials to come together.”]

On 1 January 1897, while on a filibustering expedition to Cuba, the Commodore sank, and Stephen Crane spent thirty hours in an open boat before he...

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Edwin H. Cady (essay date 1980)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Cady, Edwin H. “After The Red Badge of Courage.” In Stephen Crane, pp. 145-60. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.

[In the following essay, Cady surveys Crane's fiction after The Red Badge of Courage and regards “The Open Boat” as one of his best literary achievements.]

That sense of the ambiguous sublimity of courageous life in the face of the common fate, and the Maggie theme of the tragic needs for pity and solidarity, became the centers of all the rest of Crane's great work. Except for a few poems, his future greatness was all to come in the short story. The one possible exception to that generalization would be George's...

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Thomas L. Kent (essay date autumn 1981)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Kent, Thomas L. “The Problem of Knowledge in ‘The Open Boat’ and ‘The Blue Hotel’.” American Literary Realism 14, no. 2 (autumn 1981): 262-68.

[In the following essay, Kent analyzes the ways Crane creates epistemological uncertainty in “The Open Boat” and “The Blue Hotel.”]

Stephen Crane's fiction, especially his short fiction, has undergone in the past two decades a major revaluation. Crane is no longer considered a pure naturalist in the tradition best represented by Garland and Norris; rather, he is now regarded as one of the first American existentialist writers, one who was vitally concerned with the epistemological problem of man's...

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Paul O. Iheakaram (essay date spring 1982)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Iheakaram, Paul O. “John Pepper Clark and Stephen Crane: An Investigation of Source and Influence.” Research in African Literatures 13, no. 1 (spring 1982): 53-9.

[In the following essay, Iheakaram investigates the influence of “The Open Boat” on J. P. Clark's short play The Raft.]

Stephen Crane seems to have influenced J. P. Clark's short play, The Raft, whose title also may have been suggested by one of Crane's nine sea stories, “The Raft Story” (1895). Since Clark got his B. A. Honours degree in English in 1960 from the University of Ibadan and was in 1963 a Parvin Fellow at Princeton University (New Jersey is Stephen Crane's home state),...

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Gregory A. Schirmer (essay date autumn 1982)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Schirmer, Gregory A. “Becoming Interpreters: The Importance of Tone in Crane's ‘The Open Boat’.” American Literary Realism 15, no. 2 (autumn 1982): 221-31.

[In the following essay, Schirmer explores the tension between the varying tones of “The Open Boat.”]

None of them knew the color of the sky. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the waves that swept toward them. These waves were of the hue of slate, save for the tops, which were of foaming white, and all of the men knew the colors of the sea. The horizon narrowed and widened, and dipped and rose, and at all times its edge was jagged with waves that seemed thrust up...

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David H. Jackson (essay date March 1983)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Jackson, David H. “Textual Questions Raised by Crane's ‘Soldier of the Legion’.” American Literature 55, no. 1 (March 1983): 77-80.

[In the following essay, Jackson offers insight into Crane's use of Caroline Norton's poem “Bingen on the Rhine” in his story “The Open Boat.”]

Although the passage in “The Open Boat” in which four lines of verse “mysteriously” enter the correspondent's head is widely considered to have central thematic importance,1 the textual questions raised by these misquoted lines from Caroline Norton's “Bingen on the Rhine” have never received adequate answers. Three significant textual questions present...

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Chester L. Wolford (essay date 1983)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Wolford, Chester L. “This Booming Chaos: Crane's Search for Transcendence.” In The Anger of Stephen Crane: Fiction and the Epic Tradition, pp. 127-48. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.

[In the following essay, Wolford asserts that “The Open Boat” illustrates Crane's shifting interest from cultural to individual aspects of the literary epic form.]


Stephen Crane was nearly a writer of epic. Certainly he wrote the great American epic into The Red Badge, but then he wrote it out again, mocking accepted notions of heroism central to Western consciousness. Crane depicted archetypes of unconsciousness...

(The entire section is 7260 words.)

George Monteiro (essay date July 1984)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Monteiro, George. “Text and Picture in ‘The Open Boat’.” Journal of Modern Literature 11, no. 2 (July 1984): 307-11.

[In the following essay, Monteiro considers three possible sources for “The Open Boat.”]

Only the most primitive critical response would insist that Crane's fictional treatment of his experience of shipwreck off the Florida coast on New Year's Day 1897 could have been drawn directly and transparently from immediate life, that the author, moreover, had only to recall the details of existence aboard the small open boat, along with his moment-by-moment reactions to his plight and situation, to produce his “tale intended to be after the...

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Clarence Walhout (essay date 1987)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Walhout, Clarence. “Ives, Crane, Marin, and ‘The Mind Behind the Maker’.” Christian Scholars Review 16, no. 4 (1987): 355-72.

[In the following essay, Walhout utilizes a structuralist method to analyze “The Open Boat,” particularly exploring the implications of the last sentence of the story.]

The study of Ives, Crane, and Marin in this essay adopts what I would characterize loosely as a structuralist methodology. I say loosely because I do not wish to link my interest to any one of the particular structuralist models which fall under that rubric (Levi-Strauss, Jakobson, Greimas, Todorov, Barthes, etc.). I wish rather to use insights derived from...

(The entire section is 8567 words.)

John Ditsky (essay date winter 1988)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Ditsky, John. “The Music in ‘The Open Boat’.” NDQ: North Dakota Quarterly 56, no. 1 (winter 1988): 119-30.

[In the following essay, Ditsky delineates the musical qualities of “The Open Boat.”]

The interrelationship of music and literature is a subject that has long fascinated both laymen and the critics of both disciplines. Perhaps the fact that the two arts are so palpably similar in so many respects has been responsible for the difficulty of going beyond the patent without in the process becoming entangled in the technical verbiage peculiar to each form of expression. And yet, though the number of creative talents adept in both forms has always...

(The entire section is 5543 words.)

Christopher Benfey (essay date 1991)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Benfey, Christopher. “Shipwrecks.” Pequod 32 (1991): 134-45.

[In the following essay, Benfey traces Crane's interest in shipwrecks, which culminated in his personal experience on the Commodore and his story “The Open Boat.”]

Throughout the Dora Clark affair, Stephen Crane had portrayed himself as a man to whom things happen. The “reluctant witness” was willing to testify, but his testimony revealed little of his effort to be where things were likely to happen, and nothing at all of his complicity in prolonging events once they had occurred. Crane's journalism allowed him to educate himself in the phenomenology of disaster—fires, murders,...

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Stefanie Bates Eye (essay date fall 1998)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Eye, Stefanie Bates. “Fact, Not Fiction: Questioning Our Assumptions about Crane's ‘The Open Boat’.” Studies in Short Fiction 35, no. 1 (fall 1998): 65-76.

[In the following essay, Eye questions the prevailing critical opinion of “The Open Boat” as a work of fiction, viewing it as a prime example of literary nonfiction.]

In January 1897, Stephen Crane was shipwrecked and lost at sea on a 10-foot lifeboat for 30 hours. Once rescued, he produced three separate accounts of the same event. “Stephen Crane's Own Story,” which functions as a journalistic piece, was published in the New York Press a few days after he was rescued. “The Open...

(The entire section is 5669 words.)