In "The Open Boat," what message does the oiler's ironic death convey about fate?

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In this story, a small crew of men, including an oiler, battle against a tumultuous sea. Just as land appears, and with it the crew's hope for survival, the oiler drowns in the sea.

There are two types of irony here. The first type is situational irony, which is when what happens contradicts what the readers and the characters are expecting to happen. The fact that the oiler, after hours of struggling, finally sees land and anticipates his rescue but then dies unaided is a good example of situational irony. The fact that he dies so close to the land makes his death all the more ironic. Indeed, he dies, face down, in the shallow water close to the shore, so that "His forehead touche(s) sand that (is) sometimes, between each wave, above the sea."

The second type of irony is dramatic irony, which is when the reader or audience knows something that the characters do not. In this instance, the reader knows that, despite the house that the crew see on the land, there is "not a lifesaving station within twenty miles in either direction." Thus the oiler dies thinking that there are people on the land who are simply refusing to rescue the crew. Sadly, this thought makes the oiler's death ironic and also rather tragic.

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