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The Open Boat

            In The Open Boat by Stephen Crane, four men drift across the sea, in a boat smaller than an average bathtub. They had lost their ship, the Commodore, sometime after dawn, and now in the clear light of day are beginning to grasp the full gravity of their situation. The four men quickly realize that their main battle will be against the very thing that is holding their definitive place in the world; the swirling, roaring sea below. " the serenity of nature amid the struggles of the individual "nature in the wind, and nature in the vision of men. She did not seem cruel to him then, nor beneficent, nor treacherous, nor wise. But she was indifferent, flatly indifferent."" (Pg. 1717) These men knew that the sea didn't care if they lived or drowned, and that the waves would still break monotonously whatever the outcome may be. "If I am going to be drowned, if I am going to be drowned, if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees? Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to nibble the sacred cheese of life?- (pg 1710) The indifference of nature plagued their journey from beginning to its end. First, they were forced on their tiny dinghy because the commodore sunk, then they could not reach land even after they found it because the wave breaks were too strong and the boat too weak. Finally, the oiler, face down in the sand; just when he could finally step out of the reaches of the sea, it pulls him back for his undoing. Humanity often tends to see itself as being somehow important in the grand scheme of the Universe. We speak of "fate" as if we were put here for some reason, or purpose. In The Open Boat, the universe is totally unconcerned with the affairs of humankind. They are even regarded by a shark, which apparently finds no use for them. This indifference causes the men to feel a certain alienation from nature.

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