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The Open Boat

            In the story, The Open Boat by Stephen Crane, the central theme deals with man versus nature (naturalism), and shows the insignificance of life. This is expressed in the story by the way the characters are pitted in a small boat after surviving a shipwreck. They must face the deep sea, and the forces that nature is unleashing upon them. There are certain elements in the story that help build up and reinforce the theme. An example of this comes from the way the men are constantly battling against the open sea, and no matter what they do nature has a stronghold on them. Each character goes through the feeling of insignificance, especially the Correspondent, because they understood that no matter how hard they fight to stay alive they will never amount to the power that nature possesses; it's as if they know they can go at any moment. This is reinforced when they finally reach land. Here they are, so very close to surviving, and they must face the fact that they will probably not make it on to shore due to the strong current in front of them. It's like working so hard to fulfill your dream, but when you get there it is out of your hands; this is a case of complete insignificance. I believe the title of this story, The Open Boat, ties into the theme, because in a way the boat being open is the exposure of men to the natural elements, which in turn causes the conflict with man vs. nature. The men can only last so long while the sea is unwavering, and the image of this tiny boat in this vast ocean is very symbolic of man's ultimate effect on nature: there is no effect.

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