Humanity often tends to see itself as being somehow imperative in the grandeur of the Universe. Only when man actually comes face to face with nature's wrath, does he comprehend how insignificant he really is when compared to the vastness universe. In his short story, "The Open Boat," Stephen Crane shows us a Universe, which is totally unconcerned with the affairs of humankind; it is an indifferent Universe in which Man has to struggle to survive. Man, when compared to the nature of the universe, is infinitesimal which leaves him in an unfortunate situation out of which he can expect no recognition of his existence. Only when man is faced with the adversity of nature does he realize that his perception of himself is skewed, and he in fact is actually insignificant when compared to the enormity of nature and universe and that the immaculate power of nature is indifferent to man and his plight.
Nature takes its own course regardless of the happenings around. The boat with the four men is tossed and turned around as it is totally at the mercy of the ocean. The ocean is part of the universe in all its immenseness and the boat is symbolic of man, infinitesimal and unable to demand attention or respect from the overwhelming ocean that surrounds him. The four men, who incidentally belong to different occupations, try everything to control and navigate the boat to reach safe harbor. The difference in stature and rank are reduced to triviality and is forgotten while facing the common enemy, nature. They work in unison and share the work to maneuver the boat away from the hazards of the sea. But the mightiness of the ocean and the waves made the task a grueling one. According to the author "The little boat, lifted by each towering sea, and splashed viciously by the crests, made progress that in the absence of sea-weed was not apparent to those in her. She seemed just a wee thing wallowing, miraculously, top-up, at the mercy of five oceans.