Symbolism In Stephen Crane's The Open Boat

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Vorrapon Jirakasemnukul Dr. McNeely EN 206 American Literature (1865-Present) 3 March 2018 The Death of the Oiler: A Symbol in Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” The death of the oiler at the end of Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” reinforces nature’s unpredictability and symbolizes the indifference of nature towards man. The oiler is portrayed as the fittest and most likely to survive than the rest of the crew aboard the dinghy. The work on the little dinghy is divided among the four men. The injured captain lies at the bow of the boat, giving orders as the commander in charge, the cook occasionally bails the water out from the tiny dinghy, and the oiler and the correspondent takes turn at rowing the boat, which is the hardest task. Although the oiler and the correspondent switch off at tediously rowing, the oiler is the man who is the hardest worker of all on the dinghy. In addition to not sleeping or eating in past two days like the others on the dinghy, the oiler is said to have “worked double-watch in the engine-room of the ship” (Crane 1772) prior to it being swallowed up by the ocean. The strategy between the rowers is simple, “The plan of the oiler and the correspondent was for one to row until he lost the ability…” (Crane 1777). Despite being overworked, “The oiler plied the oars until his head drooped forward, and the overpowering sleep blinded him. And he rowed yet afterwards” (Crane 1777). This proves that the oiler is constantly pushing himself to work hard.

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