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Reading Questions for Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat"

Vocabulary: naturalism, realism, situational irony

Introduction: What real event provided Crane with the idea/basis for his short story? What was Crane's attitude toward finding meaning in life? Explain how the concept of environmental determinism fits into the philosophy of naturalism.

Lecture or Handouts:

Identify the following characters and images: the cook, Billie the oiler, the correspondent, the injured captain

Reading Questions:

  • What colors appear in the opening passage of the story? What might these colors symbolize for a naturalist?

Passages for Identification: Be able to explain who wrote this passages, what work they come from, and briefly explain their significance, context, or importance in the work.

A. None of them knew the colour of the sky. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the waves that swept toward them. These waves were teh hue of slate, save for the tops, which were of foaming white, and all of the men knew the colours of the sea.

B. A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats. . . . As each slaty wall of water approached, it shut all else from the view of the men in teh boat, and it was not difficult to imagine that this particular wave was the final outburst of the ocean, the last effort of the grim water. There was a terrible grace int eh move of the waves, and they came ini silence, save for the snarling of the crests.

C. 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. Often they came very close and stared at the men with black bead-like eyes. At these times they were uncanny and sinister in their unblinking scrutiny, and the men hooted angrily at them to be gone.



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