In the last Literature classes, we have been doing an activity about the story we read: The Open Boat. Here it is:
- The oiler was the only one given a name (Billie) to show that he was kind of ignorant because Billie is an ordinary name which isn’t quite professional, the other members of the crew are called by their occupation which is rather professional and leave readers to assume they aren’t ignorant as they seem professional.
- This is because of Darwin’s theory in which he assures that the fittest survives. The oiler rowed all the way to island and he was exhausted so he gave up and drowned, nature had defeated him.
- The view of nature in the story is strong, able to defeat anyone and let anyone live. This is really clear when she makes the oiler drown and at the same time is able to free the correspondent from that dangerous wave.
- The view of men in this story is fragile and with no power compared to nature.
- The men in the boat relate to each other like brothers.
- The pattern I can find in the story is the one of the colors, gray, black and white. They are important in the story because it helps us know how the characters felt during the story. A repetition I can find in the story is the one of rowing and it is important in the story because it helps us understand how even though they worked a lot and really hard, they were never going to have more power than nature.
- A part in where the narrator intruded is in the part in which he explains how the characters thought that after all the work the did they didn’t deserve to drown in the ocean. I think it was effective because it helps us see what the characters felt.
- I think the ending of the story is truthful because after all the effort the oiler had done it was quite predictable that he would die before reaching land. Furthermore, as this is a story based in true facts, we know the oiler must have died in the story because he actually died. On the other hand, as this is literature, we can guess it also has an ironic meaning which may be that he “failed” because, as Darwin Theory explains, the fittest are able to survive. With this, he may mean that to get what you want, you have to take wise decisions (unlike the oiler did when trying to get fast to the shore instead of going slowly and near the dinghy). Moreover, when Crane says “In the shadows, face downwards lays the oiler”, he may have meant he gave up as facing down means, mostly something negative.
- I think Crane used that structure of Roman numbers to show that one wouldn’t mean anything without the others. Just as the men in the story, because if one of them was missing, the story wouldn’t make any sense as they would’ve instantly died. Furthermore, the men said there were 7 gods in the sea, and it isn’t quite a coincidence that there are 7 parts. What may have happened is that they believed each thing that happened in each part was determined by each god.
Pathways to interpretation
- During the Victorian writers wanted to display reality and this is what Crane did. Most of his stories has to do with people trying to win nature and not being able to and this is what happens in the open boat.
- What the historical context and the connection have to do is that during the Victorian period, when the story was wrote, a lot of writers including Crane start writing about naturalism, realism and how people can’t win nature and in the open boat that’s what happens, even though they try there’s no way they could win nature.
Patterns in The Open Boat
- Some uses and references to colors were:
- Black: “… the land seemed but a long black shadow on the sea” With this, what Crane is trying to express is that the land seemed to be a dangerous, unsafe (like blurry, unclear) and that reaching there depended, mostly, in the sea.
- White: “Slowly the land arose from the sea.From a black line, it became a line of black and a line of white…” With this, what Crane is trying to express, is that at first the place they wanted to reach was dangerous and that they were going to die before reaching that place. Nonetheless, then it turned out to be easier than expected.
- Gray: “Gray-faced and bowed forwards…” This means that they did so emotionlessly, mechanically.
- Gold: “Later, carmine and gold was painted upon the waters” This mean that at that point, they had gained (or at least they thought) courage over the ocean.
- The repetitions of the rowing passage meant, all in all, that although they tried really hard, they would never be able to overcome nature.
- Drowning is repeated many times because drowning is giving up or being defeated by nature. This is the situation in which the men were: about to be defeated by nature and with the chance of giving up which is also related to being defeated by nature.
- The oiler may have been called Billie to make reference to his ignorance as the name Billie is ordinary and not quite professional, furthermore the name Billie means protector and Billie died protecting his colleagues.
- Something which foreshadowed the oiler’s future was the poem about the soldier and how many times he said how exhausted he was.
- Some references to death in the story is black and the fear they had of being drown. Some references to dead sleep is when the correspondent falls deep in sleep because as drowning sleeping may represent giving up and when they gave up they died.
- At the end they aren’t interpreters as they weren’t able to understand what had happened as they were happy because they thought they had defeated nature and that was why they survived.
- Actually, the men in The Open Boat are spared by nature as she did whatever she wanted with them. She let some survive and left one dead.