The Central Theme in “The Open Boat” by Crane

Pages: 3
Words: 946


The Open Boat by Stephen Crane is an endurance tale about four people who have survived a disaster and are now working as a team to locate any piece of land they can discover while only traveling in a tiny boat on the ocean. Nature is on their tail, with ice-cold ocean water just under their feet and only a tiny boat to shelter the four of them from the elements. The chef, the captain, the oiler, and the correspondent all survived the crash and are desperate for whatever assistance they can get their hands on. It is time for people to look for different ways to curb the conflict between man and nature.

Themes in the Text

The central theme of the work The Open Boat is the conflict between man and nature. People are frightened and sleep-deprived since one of the four men has been wounded. They can not take a break, or they will drown in the cold waters of the lake. Crane states: “These waves were most wrongfully and barbarously abrupt and tall, and each froth-top was a problem in small-boat navigation” (195). Throughout their journey to safety, the pot serves as a beacon, but still, no one comes to aid, and they come to terms with the fact that they will never get to the lighthouse without help. They let the ocean retake them, trying to find another solution to their icy dilemma.

Following the destruction of their tiny dinghy by the waves, the men are forced to swim to the shore to save their lives. The author shows how man and nature interact: “The mind of the master of a vessel is rooted deep in the timbers of her, though he command for a day or a decade…” (Crane, 110).

A massive, angry, and unyielding third wave rolled in from the horizon. It nearly wholly engulfed the dinghy, and the guys were thrown into the water practically at the same time. They are fighting for their lives, trying to swim to the beach in cold water. Only three of them survived the swim by the time they reached the ground and help arrived. The oiler was found dead in the sea, leaving just the captain, chef, and reporter to continue the mission. With the death of some people, the theme of the conflict between man and wildlife becomes even more obvious, demonstrating the triumph of Mother nature over humanity. The horrific shipwreck and the subsequent retelling of their journey to safety are frighteningly real. It illustrates how powerful the natural forces can be not only when they work against us.

Personal Value

The theme of the collision of man and nature is valuable to me since it relates to what is happening in modern society. Just like the men in the story, we battle with nature daily. Human beings are constantly confronted with natural forces which are beyond our control. To restore order to our world, we must find a method to overcome the barriers that stand in our path. The struggle for existence is the most significant battle between man and the environment. A person may get entangled in a difficult situation that puts their life in jeopardy. For this man to live, he must be courageous, astute, and physically powerful enough to flee to safety. Usually, the protagonist’s tranquility is restored once these elements are defeated. In the most severe instances, people learn important lessons from their defeats that they may use in the future.

I have encountered various nature-related conflicts in my daily life. For instance, I have witnessed floods demolishing and damaging properties worth millions of money. I have seen people lose their houses, cars, and others’ life when nature decides to fight back. Floods are a common occurrence across the world, and sometimes it results from human activities. This is a clear indication that this is the story’s central theme since it reflects what is currently happening in our society due to the man versus nature conflict.

Social Value

The man and nature conflict theme is essential to society and can reflect on what is happening and where a man needs to change. Nature can also be viewed as a set of events that cannot be prevented. Natural catastrophes such as hunger, illness, and storms are uncontrollable events over which man has no authority. Contemporary works of fiction have brought a new set of fundamental problems, such as cancer and depression, into the conversation. Nature is not an entity that can be coerced into submission. Nature may be a terrifying force, particularly for someone trying to conquer a difficult task or learn an important lesson from nature. Nature has been lumped in with the concept of destiny. Nature and destiny are supernatural forces that are impossible to describe. Fate is the final destiny of an individual or character, which one attempts to escape but ultimately encounters after the story. Therefore, this story’s central theme illustrates to the society the different nature conflicts they can expect and how they should react. The main topic is important for society because it draws attention to the fact that it is necessary to be careful of nature and appreciate what it gives to people.


The conflict between people and nature has been growing for a long time. Man’s activities have significantly affected the environment, which forces it to react through lighting, massive floods, and hurricanes. The Open Boat is a great story that conveys real-world issues in 3a simple yet effective manner. Man must understand the effect he has done on nature, what to expect as a reaction, and come up with different ways to be safe.

Work Cited

Crane, Stephen. The Open Boat. CreateSpace Publishing, 2016.