Stephen Crane achieves E. A. Poe’s “singleness of effect” as he successfully strives for uncertainty in The Open Boat. Crane constantly raises his audience’s hopes by suggesting that the crew on board will be saved. For example, he does this when the men heartily smoke cigars, “… and with an assurance of impending rescue, shining in their eyes, puffed the big cigars and judged well and ill of all men.
Everybody took a drink of water” (Part III). He conveys a positive mood in light of a dark, dangerous storm that the ship is in the midst of.
He then crushes this positive mood by telling the audience the despairs of the desolate situation. He does this when he says, “It is fair to say here that there was not a life-saving station within twenty miles… the men did not know this fact and in consequence made dark and opprobrious remarks concerning the eyesight of the nation’s life-savers” (Part IV).
By telling the audience that this is a life and death situation, Crane creates an unstable mood and continues this for the rest of the short story. Crane effectively keeps the audience on their toes until he reveals to us the fate of the crew. The ultimate fate was striking because Crane forms a bond between the audience and the men, highlighting the strenuous efforts of survival.
Stephen Crane ultimately conveys the uncertainty of fate through the crew’s near-life and death struggles. What is it about the presence of the gulls that infuriates the men? How did the men’s inability to get rid of them underscore their predicament?
In Stephen Crane’s short story, The Open Boat, a crew of men are stranded on a boat, in midst of a brewing storm. They constantly have to fight the surging waves to stay afloat and reach land. While the men are keeping up high spirits, they see Canton flannel gulls flying near them. The gulls infuriate some of the men because, “The birds sat comfortably in groups, and they were envied by some in the dinghy, for the wrath of the sea was no more to them than it was to a covey of prairie chickens a thousand miles inland” (Part II). The gulls are in no apparent danger, just like the chickens inland, and can easily escape the menacing ocean, unlike the crew – who are livid from knowing this disadvantage. Unfortunately, the gulls are not easy to get rid of as they, “…came very close and stared at the men with black bead-like eyes… and the men hooted angrily at them telling them to be gone” (Part II). This underscores their predicament as the men are constantly being besieged by the waves, as they are being with the gulls. To the men, the gulls “struck their mind at this time as being somehow ominous and gruesome” (Part II). The gulls are essentially harbingers of perilous times ahead, as they are the first many problems encountered on the sea.