The Open Boat

by

Stephen Crane

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Correspondent Character Analysis

The unnamed correspondent is a journalist who survives a shipwreck and is forced to battle the open seas on a ten-foot lifeboat with three other men—the captain, the oiler, and the cook. As the captain gives orders and the cook bails out the boat, the correspondent is responsible for taking turns rowing with the oiler. He feels deeply connected to his companions, counteracting the skepticism he typically feels toward other men. The narrator describes his inner thoughts and feelings more closely than any of the other characters, suggesting that the narrator and the correspondent may even be one and the same (even though the narration is third-person). Throughout the story, the correspondent is frequently consumed by existentialist thoughts and is fixated on fate and nature’s indifference to humans. In addition, his occupation as a correspondent coupled with his experience of being a shipwreck survivor who must ride on a small lifeboat with three others echoes the author’s life story, suggesting that the correspondent may be Stephen Crane himself. Like the captain and the cook, the correspondent ultimately survives his time at sea and is rescued by the life-saving man. His experience leaves him feeling that he can now interpret the voice of the sea, which, in its indifference toward human life, makes “absurdly clear” the difference between right and wrong.

Correspondent Quotes in The Open Boat

The The Open Boat quotes below are all either spoken by Correspondent or refer to Correspondent. 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:

The correspondent thought that he had been drenched to the skin, but happening to feel in the top pocket of his coat, he found therein eight cigars. Four of them were soaked with sea-water; four were perfectly scathless.

Related Characters: Correspondent
Related Symbols: Cigars
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:

He has never considered it his affair that a soldier of the Legion lay dying in Algiers, nor had it appeared to him as a matter for sorrow. It was less to him than the breaking of a pencil’s point. Now, however, it quaintly came to him as a human, living thing.

Related Characters: Correspondent
Related Symbols: Soldier
Explanation and Analysis:
Part VII Quotes

Later, carmine and gold was painted upon the waters. The morning appeared finally, in its splendor, with a sky of pure blue, and the sunlight flamed on the tips of the waves.

Related Characters: Correspondent
Explanation and Analysis:

A man in this situation […] should see the innumerable flaws of his life, and have them taste wickedly in his mind and wish for another chance. A distinction between right and wrong seems absurdly clear to him […] and he understands that if he were given another opportunity he would mend his conduct and his words, and be better and brighter during an introduction or at a tea.

Related Characters: Correspondent
Related Symbols: Wind tower
Explanation and Analysis:

Afterward he saw his companions in the sea. The oiler was ahead in the race. He was swimming strongly and rapidly.

Related Characters: Correspondent, Oiler
Explanation and Analysis:

He was naked, naked as a tree in winter, but a halo was about his head and he shone like a saint.

Related Characters: Correspondent, Life-saving man
Explanation and Analysis:

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:
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Correspondent Character Timeline in The Open Boat

The timeline below shows where the character Correspondent 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
...machinery in a ship’s engine room) steers the boat with a single, thin oar. The correspondent, who wonders why he’s in this situation in the first place, uses the other oar... (full context)
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
...near Mosquito Inlet, so the men are likely to be seen and saved soon. The correspondent tells the cook that a “house of refuge” doesn’t have a crew, just emergency supplies.... (full context)
Part II
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
...there is an on-shore wind, stating 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... (full context)
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
The oiler, the cook, and the correspondent feel optimistic but don’t voice it, because they feel that voicing their optimism would sound... (full context)
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
The oiler and the correspondent continue taking turns rowing. Switching places on the tiny lifeboat without capsizing it is more... (full context)
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
...that he sees the lighthouse at Mosquito Inlet, and the cook sees it too. The correspondent is too busy rowing and keeping his eyes glued on the approaching waves to turn... (full context)
Part III
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
The men have become a “subtle brotherhood,” though no one talks about it. Even the correspondent, who was “taught to be cynical of men,” feels this sense of closeness and mutual... (full context)
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... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
...the water. The small lifeboat struggles over the “impetuous” waves as the oiler or the correspondent take the oars again. (full context)
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
...eat out of excitement. The narrator notes that “for these reasons, and for others” the correspondent and the oiler dislike their task of rowing. The correspondent thinks it’s absurd that people... (full context)
Certainty and Uncertainty  Theme Icon
The captain reminds the correspondent and the oiler to preserve their strength in case they are forced to swim. The... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
...an hour. As they ride the “wild colt of a dingey like circus men,” the correspondent finds eight cigars in his pocket. Four of the cigars are soaked, but four are... (full context)
Part IV
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
The narrator repeats the rowing pattern: “the oiler rowed, and then the correspondent rowed. Then the oiler rowed.” All the men’s backs ache, and the oiler and the... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
...damned cheerful.” Meanwhile, the narrator repeats the rowing pattern: “the oiler rowed, and then the correspondent rowed, and then the oiler rowed.” A single star appears in the sky, but everything... (full context)
Part V
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
The oiler and the correspondent chastise the cook for tempting them with the thought of food, while the cook dreamily... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
...the sea is calm, and the waves lap “without snarling.” Since it’s so dark, the correspondent can’t see the waves until they are “almost upon the boat.” He asks the captain... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
The correspondent looks at the oiler and the cook huddled together in the bottom of the boat... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
The correspondent notices another trail of “bluish” phosphorescent light in the water and realizes that their boat... (full context)
Part VI
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
The correspondent thinks of a verse from a poem he knew in his childhood about a dying... (full context)
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 the night. The captain says... (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. He tells the cook to yell... (full context)
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
The cook eventually calls out that the boat has floated near shore, so the correspondent takes the oars once more. Warmed by some whiskey and water from the captain, the... (full context)
Part VII
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
The correspondent awakens to a grey sky blending in with grey water. Eventually, the water turns gold,... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
...that if they linger for too much longer, they will waste all their strength. The correspondent looks at a wind tower on the shore and wonders whether anyone ever climbs it... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
...the waves are too violent for the men to row much nearer to shore. The correspondent knows the men aren’t afraid but can’t make sense of what they’re feeling. The correspondent... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
...bail it out. The oiler prepares the men to jump at the next wave. The correspondent grabs a lifebelt from the bottom of the boat, and as the next wave crashes,... (full context)
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
The correspondent looks around for the other men. Nearby, the cook bobs up and down in the... (full context)
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
The correspondent gets trapped in a current, and his progress to shore ceases. In the midst of... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
An incoming wave yanks the correspondent out from the tide, allowing him to continue his journey toward the shore. The captain,... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
The correspondent notices what looks to be a life-saving man running across the shore and stripping off... (full context)
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
...plods through the waves to the captain, who gestures for the man to save the correspondent first. The naked man, who has seems to have a halo around his head. Shining... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
The life-saving man suddenly cries out, “What’s that?” and points, and the correspondent tells him, “Go.” In the shallow water of the shore, the oiler is face down,... (full context)
Humans vs. Nature Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, Empathy, and Community Theme Icon
Fate and Mortality Theme Icon
The correspondent doesn’t remember how he finally reached shore, save for falling onto the sand, which felt... (full context)