The Open Boat

by

Stephen Crane

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Captain Character Analysis

The unnamed captain of the now-sunken Commodore also captains the lifeboat, instructing his makeshift crew (which is comprised of the correspondent, the oiler, and the cook). Though injured in the hand, the captain is dedicated to his companions and does whatever he can to help them, including staying awake all day and night. He remains emotionally strong throughout the story even though he is visibly grieving over his sunken Commodore and his failed responsibility of keeping its passengers safe. The captain is a quick and innovative thinker, which is demonstrated when he makes a sail out of his coat and a flag out of a bath towel and a branch, as well as when he instructs the cook to float on his back and row himself to shore like a boat rather than struggle to swim against the waves. The captain embraces uncertainty, making him a model for the other men and a counterpoint to the cook’s self-assuredness. The captain survives his time on the open sea despite his self-sacrificing behavior. He even insists to the life-saving man that the other men be rescued first.

Captain Quotes in The Open Boat

The The Open Boat quotes below are all either spoken by Captain or refer to Captain. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of The Open Boat published in 1993.
Part III Quotes

It would be difficult to describe the subtle brotherhood of men that was here established on the seas. No one said that it was so. No one mentioned it. But it dwelt in the boat, and each man felt it warm him. They were a captain, an oiler, a cook, and a correspondent, and they were friends, friends in a more curiously iron-bound degree than may be common.

Related Characters: Correspondent, Captain, Oiler, Cook
Explanation and Analysis:
Part IV Quotes

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 way about to nibble the sacred cheese of life?

Related Characters: Correspondent, Captain, Oiler, Cook
Explanation and Analysis:

If this old ninny-woman, Fate, cannot do better than this, she should be deprived of the management of men’s fortunes. She is an old hen who knows not her intention. If she has decided to drown me, why did she not do it at the beginning and save me all this trouble? The whole affair is absurd… But no, she cannot mean to drown me. She dare not drown me. She cannot drown me. Not after all this work.

Related Characters: Correspondent, Captain, Oiler, Cook
Explanation and Analysis:
Part VI Quotes

For it was certainly an abominable injustice to drown a man who had worked so hard, so hard. The man felt it would be a crime most unnatural. Other people had drowned at sea since galleys swarmed with painted sails, but still—

Related Characters: Correspondent, Captain, Oiler, Cook
Explanation and Analysis:

When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important…he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples. Any visible expression of nature would surely be pelleted with his jeers.

Related Characters: Correspondent, Captain, Oiler, Cook
Explanation and Analysis:
Part VII Quotes

When it came night, the white waves paced to and fro in the moonlight, and the wind brought the sound of the great sea’s voice to the men on shore, and they felt that they could then be interpreters.

Related Characters: Correspondent, Captain, Cook
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Open Boat LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Open Boat PDF

Captain Character Timeline in The Open Boat

The timeline below shows where the character Captain appears in The Open Boat. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
...the other oar to propel them forward. The fourth and final passenger is the injured captain who gives the other men orders. He is in “mourning” over his now-sunken ship since... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
The captain tells Billie, the oiler, to keep the lifeboat headed south. The lifeboat is compared to... (full context)
Part II
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
...that without it, the men wouldn’t have chance. The correspondent and oiler agree, but the captain laughs and says with “humor, contempt, and tragedy,” “Do you think we’ve got much of... (full context)
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
...voice it, because they feel that voicing their optimism would sound “childish and stupid.” The captain, as if “soothing his children,” says that they will make it to shore all right.... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
...as “a covey of prairie chickens a thousand miles inland.” A bird lands on the captain’s head, but the captain can’t wave it away for fear of capsizing the boat in... (full context)
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
The captain says that he sees the lighthouse at Mosquito Inlet, and the cook sees it too.... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
The men ask the captain if they will make it to shore, to which he replies by saying that they... (full context)
Part III
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
The cook and the correspondent attach the captain’s coat to the mast as a makeshift sail, which helps the men’s progress toward shore.... (full context)
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
The captain reminds the correspondent and the oiler to preserve their strength in case they are forced... (full context)
Part IV
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
The captain realizes the house of refuge is empty, telling the cook, “there don’t seem to be... (full context)
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
The captain prepares the men to handle the situation without relying on help from life-saving people. He... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
...the waves push them northward. Someone asks if they are nearing St. Augustine, but the captain says no.  (full context)
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
...saved within a half hour now that they’ve been noticed. “By some weird chance,” the captain finds a stick floating in the water beside them and a bath towel in the... (full context)
Part V
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
...correspondent can’t see the waves until they are “almost upon the boat.” He asks the captain if the boat should still be headed north but is unsure the captain is still... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
...the sea, a grotesque rendering of the old babes in the wood.” Eventually, even the captain seems to be asleep, and the correspondent feels like “the one man afloat on all... (full context)
Part VI
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
When the captain finally sits up, the correspondent asks if he saw the shark in the middle of... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Later that evening, the captain instructs the oiler and the correspondent to sleep while the cook watches over the boat.... (full context)
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
...the correspondent takes the oars once more. Warmed by some whiskey and water from the captain, the correspondent jokingly threatens anyone who ever so much as shows him a picture of... (full context)
Part VII
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
The captain says that if they linger for too much longer, they will waste all their strength.... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
The captain affirms that the boat is bound to sink, and that they need to row close... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
The men calmly and quietly prepare to abandon their lifeboat, and the captain reminds them to jump as far out from the boat as possible. The boat struggles... (full context)
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
...the other men. Nearby, the cook bobs up and down in the water, while the captain holds onto the overturned boat with his uninjured hand. The oiler is “ahead in the... (full context)
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
...and his progress to shore ceases. In the midst of the confusion, he hears the captain yelling to the cook to turn over on his back and use an oar to... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
...correspondent out from the tide, allowing him to continue his journey toward the shore. The captain, still clutching the boat, yells for the correspondent to swim to the boat. In his... (full context)
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
...running and undressing lugs the cook to shore and plods through the waves to the captain, who gestures for the man to save the correspondent first. The naked man, who has... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
...is grateful for the land regardless. The shore greets the correspondent, the cook, and the captain in a “warm and generous” way, as the shore swarms with people bearing blankets, coffee,... (full context)