The soldier from the poem that the correspondent remembers from his youth (Caroline E. S. Norton’s “Bingers on the Rhine”) symbolizes mankind’s helplessness and mortality. Clutching his bleeding chest with his left hand, the soldier tries in vain to keep from dying, even though his death is already fast approaching and he has no access to a nurse. By recalling the soldier from this poem, the correspondent recognizes his own powerlessness in the face of the violent ocean. When the correspondent is flung into the ocean after the lifeboat capsizes, he clutches a piece of a lifebelt across his chest with his left hand, mirroring the soldier clutching his bleeding heart.
Soldier Quotes in The Open Boat
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.