The Open Boat-Activity
By: Paz Bernusi, Mora Malenchini and Felicitas De Simone
1) Why is the Oiler given a name (Billie)?Why are the others only referred to generally?
The name of the Oiler is given because he is the different one. All of them were the ones whose destiny was to survive but his destiny was different, he needed to die, he needed to save the others. Billie is the special one, he is not as the others.
2) Why is that the Oiler dies and not anyone else?
Billie is the one who dies because according to determinism things happen because they are meant to. His destiny was to die and save the others, he was the weakest and that’s why he needed to die, to save the fittest, like Darwin’s theory explains.
3) Why is the view of Nature presented in this story?
Nature’s view is that humans are less powerful than her, that she has control of what happens to people and can decide their destiny. Things always depend on her as she has more power than anyone.
4) What is the view of the men presented in
The view of men is that they depend on nature, they can die in any moment because nature decides what happens to them. Nature is always stronger than the person, no one can challenge nature because they will always end up losing.
5) How do the men in the Open Boat relate to each other?
To reach land they needed each other. Each of them had a role and without each other, probably they would have all died. They all needed to row and were always changing places so that no one was very tired. If they were alone none of them would have survived.
6) What “patterns” or “repetitions” do you find in the story? How are these important to understand the story?
The colors white, grey and black are mentioned all throughout the story. Each of them represents something and gives us a foreshadowing of what will happen. This is very important to understand each of the parts of the story and to know if what is happening is good or bad for them. Black is shown to represent death, chaos and destruction. Grey means emotionless and dull. White is the positive color, it represents purity, protection and goodness.
7) Where does the narrator seem to ‘intrude’ into the story? Is this distracting? Is it effective?
The narrator intrudes himself in the story when he judges the characters on it. This is something that makes us reflect, we do not know if what the narrator is telling from someone is what is really going on or if it is his own opinion, his own judgement. It’s distracting. For example when he says that Billie died because he was the weakest one, probably him and the characters of the story didn’t think the same about him. It may have been the narrator’s own opinión.
8) What do you think about the ending to the story (after we found out that Billie, the Oiler, dies)? Is this truthful, or is the narrator being ironic?
In our opinion the ending is ironic, we think that the writer wants to use irony when Billie dies because for us if he died and did it for the others it is because he is the strongest one, the fittest one, not the weakest one.
9) Why did Crane use the structure he did—the seven sections with Roman numerals?
He uses this structure to represent the Seven
Gods of the sea that are part of nature and are always defining the destiny of the sailors. Also the seven represents eternity and spirit. This is related to their journey in the boat and how much they change throughout it.
Pathways to interpretation
1)Consider the biographical context and connections.
The story connects with the narrators biography. He knew how being in a situation like that one was like. He had experienced it. He could explain very well every feeling, every moment, everything that went through the mind of the men in the boat because he also had been through that. This is connected to the story when it is narrated. The narrator can explain very vividly how the situation of the men was.
2) Consider the historical context and connections.
The story is connected to Naturalism and Determinism. In those times, people used to believe in this theories. Naturalism is the theory that explains that nobody can challenge Nature as she will always win and has the control of what happens to us. This is connected to the story because the men in the boat were always depending on Nature. She decided what happened to them. They couldn’t fight against her. Also, Determinism is shown. Determinism explains that things are determined, we can’t decide what happens to us. We can’t change things. We have a destiny. This theory is actually similar to Naturalism, the men in the story had a destiny and couldn’t change it. The Oiler should die as he was the weakest, the others should survive as they were the fittest.
Patterns in “the open boat”
1) Uses of and references of COLORS:
The colors that appear are white, gray and black.
- White: It is a positive color, associated with purity, virginity, innocence, light, goodness, protection and perfection. He uses white, for example, to describe how the water was, with this we can notice that by using white to describe water he is expressing the transparency and the purity of it.
- Gray: Emotionless moody color that is typically associated with meanings of dull, dirty and dingy, as well as formal and conderrative. He uses in a moment gray to say how a shadow is, so we can observe that gray is a scary and negative color.
- Black: It is a negative color, it represents death, chaos, destruction and that the end of the world is coming. In many parts of the story he uses the color “black” and in one of those parts he writes it to talk about the black shadow of a house. Maybe with “black” he wanted to express what he thought, that was that he did not have a good omen on that house.
3) References to ANIMALS: The only animal mentioned in the story is the gull, that represents communication and community. In the boat communication and community were very important. All the men needed each other and needed to communicate to work as a community and survive. Also, for the people in the boat, the gull meant happiness and hope because they knew that they were near land.
8) Hints or clues or foreshadowing about the Oiler.
In the story the death of the Oiler is foreshadowed for example when he started saying the verse and explaining what it was about. The verse talks about a soldier dying and saying that he might never see his own native land ever again. This is very related to the story because the Oiler was like the soldier of the captain, he was his right hand and would do whatever for him and to help, even die. This is why when he says that the soldier would never see his native own land again it foreshadows that him, as the soldier of the captain would die to save him and never go back to his land and normal
9)References to DEATH or DEAD SLEEP:
When sleeping is mentioned it symbolizes death. The men in the boat were always tired and wanted to sleep, this can symbolize that they were always close to death and could possibly die. This is also related to the death of the Oiler too. He started feeling very tired, and some time later he died. This is a clear foreshadowing of death by using sleep as a symbol of it.
10) The ENDING- – are they really “interpreters”?
In the ending the characters failed interpreting the death of the Oiler. They thought they won the battle against nature, and that the Oiler had been ill-fated. But really they didn’t won, one of them sacrificed to save the others, and nature took his life. The death of one ruins the possibility of winning because winning is not ending with a friend dead.
11) Do the men in The Open Boat overcome Nature, or are they spared by Nature?
The men in the story couldn`t overcome Nature, it is impossible as Naturalism explains. Nature is always superior. Men depended on her, they were spared by Nature. The men at the end of the story thought that they had won the battle against Nature but actually they hadn’t, they had lost it as Billie had died. The Nature decided that he should die and they could do nothing about it because she was and is, more powerful than anyone.