The Realism behind Cranes life in a boat Stephen Crane was one of America’s most popular realistic writers, and he was known for marking the beginning of modern American Naturalism.
In Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat” is among one of the most skillfully crafted stories in American literature. The Open Boat gives its readers a first-hand look at the challenges that Crane faced while he was aboard an endangered lifeboat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. “No one knew the color of the sky” (Crane). This short passage from “The Open Boat,” puts its readers into the scene of the story giving them a new perspective on the story itself. In Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat”, Cranes real-life experiences of being stranded at sea, while facing the times of the Realism Era greatly influenced his writing of Crane’s most well-known work of literature. Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat,” is a short story based on “a life-threatening personal experience” (Hayes). Crane’s first-hand account helps the story to be filled with vivid imagery and detailed descriptions of what the characters in the short story were truly faced with. The main characters of “The Open Boat” include the oiler, the correspondent, the cook, and the captain.
Each of the characters plays a vital role throughout the story and help build the suspense that Crane slowly reveals to his readers. “The Open Boat wouldn’t have become a reality if it was for the “several unsuccessful attempts to reach Cuba in 1897, where he hoped to cover the Cuban revolution, Crane ultimately obtained passage aboard the Commodore. When the ship foundered and sank, Crane escaped in a lifeboat and, after a harrowing experience at sea, made it safely to land” (Hayes).
This life-threatening experience changed Crane’s outlook on life and made him into one of the most well-known writers of American Literature.Stephen Townley Crane began his life on November 1st, 1871 in Newark, New Jersey. Crane was born to Jonathan and Mary Crane. Cranes father, “the Reverend Dr. Jonathan Townley Crane, was the Presiding Elder of the Methodist churches around Newark; his mother, Mary Peck Crane, was an active public speaker on religious and reform issues” (Johnson). Growing up, Crane was the last of fourteen children and was raised by his older sister Agnes. When Crane was old enough to begin schooling, he attended preparatory school until he spent two years at various colleges in Pennsylvania and New York. After college, Crane began journaling and writing short works of literature.
“Crane’s short life was a series of experiments with various personas: athlete, bohemian, muckraking urban journalist, western adventurer, war correspondent, English country gentleman. The only identity he settled on, however, was that of artist” (Johnson). Crane was a well-established author, publishing many poems and short stories including “In the Depths of a Coal Mine,” “An Experiment in Misery,” and “The Open Boat.” Not only was “Stephen Crane a very successful author, but he was an accomplished war correspondent as well, which he portrays in some of his works”(Johnson). In Crane’s Story “The Open Boat,” Crane doesn’t explain his life as a war correspondent, but rather his life-changing story while aboard an open boat. Crane’s life is directly related to his short story because his story is based on his own personal life-threatening experience. “Crane initially wrote up the adventure as a newspaper report, which was published under the title, ‘Stephen Crane’s Own Story,’ and ‘The Open Boat’ came as an afterthought” (Hayes).
At the age of 28, Stephen Crane died of Tuberculosis on June 5, 1900. Crane died the same age as his sister Agnes when she passed. During the time that Stephen Crane wrote his short story “The Open Boat,” Crane was working as a war correspondent on an “expedition to supply Cuban revolutionaries in 1896” (Explanation).
Stephen Crane was very proud to be an American, and “had been one of the leading patriots of New Jersey during the Revolution” (Cazemajou). The Cuban Rebellion played a vital role in the last years of Cranes life, and directly impacted his writing of “The Open Boat”. Cranes story “has been the subject of a myriad of critical interpretations. Foremost, commentators have considered the story as naturalistic, realistic, impressionistic, or existentialist in nature” (The). Cranes story of “The Open Boat” reveals to the readers the events in history that directly reflected Cranes life. “Stephen Crane lived fast and aggressively, and although he died at age twenty-eight, he managed to exceed a normal lifetime’s experience in travel and exposure to extremes of human condition and endeavor” (Johnson). “The relationship between his hectic life and his best art is even more problematical than is usually the case with writers. He produced the greatest of American war novels before he ever saw combat, but perhaps his best short story came directly out of his experience in an endangered lifeboat” (Johnson).
Cranes life directly influenced the writing of “The Open Boat” due to his personal experiences faced “as a correspondent shipwrecked while on a filibustering expedition to supply Cuban revolutionaries” (Explanation). Crane originally wrote about his experiences on the “Commodore” through a newspaper article, which he later published “Stephen Crane’s Own Story.” “After Crane reflected upon the events of his shipwreck, he tailored his fictional account of it to the theme of heroism in the face of imminent death.
In a perfect metaphor of the forces of nature versus the struggles of man, Crane makes the men on the boat a symbol of the heroism of simple human endurance against an indifferent universe” (Elliot). Stephen Crane’s short story “The Open Boat” is “considered to be one of the great sea tales of world literature” (The). Cranes real-life experiences aboard the “Commodore” shaped his writings into works of art that define the literary nonfiction genre. “In ‘The Open Boat’ Crane achieved a nearly ideal integration of style and substance and wrote what is generally considered one of the best stories in the English language” (Johnson). “Nine decades after his death Crane’s critical and popular reputation seems secure” (Johnson).
Crane will always be remembered for his unique style of writing, and his powerful short stories that have changed the face of American literature.