How do the men in "The Open Boat" form a brotherhood?

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All of the characters in the story are quite literally in the same boat, which means that even though they might not ordinarily give each other the time of day, they have to put aside their differences in order to maximize their chances of survival.

And to a large extent they do. The men aboard the boat develop a "them and us" mentality, which gives them a fair degree of strength in the face of extreme adversity. They develop what Crane refers to as a "subtle brotherhood," meaning that though there's a certain camaraderie among the men, it isn't explicitly stated. Instead, there's just a quiet sense of common purpose between them.

We see this expressed by the correspondent. It's nighttime, and as he lies awake he sees a shark ominously circling the boat. He immediately thinks how much better it would be if someone were awake with him. This shows that the correspondent, like his fellow passengers, is thinking in terms of "us" instead of "me." He then goes on to remember the poem about the dying soldier, and feels bad about the guy. The correspondent's experiences aboard the boat have clearly given him a sense that he's part of something bigger, a brotherhood of man, if you will.

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