‘The Open Boat’ is a short story by an American author Stephen Crane. The story explains how four men try to survive in the lifeboat in a stormy sea. Captain is one of them and one of the main characters. At the beginning of the story the captain is described as a person who has been injured and is lying in the bow being absolutely dejected and indifferent to everything (Crane 6). This mood is caused by the fact that his ship has gone down. In fact, captain tries to look calm, but there is something strange in his voice. Despite the fact that it sounds steady, it is deep with mourning and of a quality beyond oration or tears (Crane 6).
Although the captain is injured and gloomy because of his ships, he is still capable of leadership. It is obvious that the fact that he is a captain and that three lives depend on his knowledge of seafaring motivates him not to lose hope. He gives orders concerning the direction of their little boat and concerning the actions of other three men. He is not self-motivated, almost all his actions are directed at others. Despite the fact that he talks quietly and calmly in a low voice, everybody listens to him. He believes that his optimism will help other men to survive. That is why he tries to encourage them even when the words do not meet the reality. The captain treats these men in the same manner as if he is soothing his children. He inspires hope that they all will get ashore alright (Crane 9). In fact, he succeeds in encouraging, because something in his voice has made three man consider his words and believe in his desire. Moreover, this motivation makes the captain very attentive and He is the first to see the lighthouse in the distance and he shows it to one of three men and when one does not see it, the captain shows the exact direction with his finger and it inspires the whole crew (Crane 12). The same wish motivates the captain never to talk about the death. When he is asked, whether he really believes in their survival, the captain explains that they cannot do something else (Crane 12).
The captain is very much impacted by his environment especially by those men around him. Although at the beginning of the short story the captain is very much influenced by the actions which have happened earlier. He lost his ship, it affects him seriously. The captain looks broken, very depressed and indifferent. The author explains that such state may come to absolutely anyone, even the bravest and the most enduring, meaning the captain (Crane 6). However, later he realizes the responsibility for his crew and it gives him additional strength to seek all possibilities to help everybody to survive.
The captain as a character definitely grows till the end of the story. At the beginning captain is depressed that is why he rarely comments and speaks with other. However, as the story develops, this character becomes more important. He tries to do everything to calm his small crew that is why he always tries to talk in a low voice and calmly and everybody listens to him, because men are sure that everything what is said to be done, is more than a mere recognition of what might be the best for the common safety (Crane 15). The captain soothes his crew more and more till the end of the story, as he realizes that if they spend themselves, they will not be able to save themselves when the time comes (Crane 17). At the end of the story, when the characters are about to swim to the land they see, the captain’s role is of outmost importance. On the morning after their second night, the captain took the responsibility to decide that they cannot wait for the fishing boat that might come and rescue them. The captain analyses the situation and understands that the men will become more and more weak with every hour. If they do not rescue themselves immediately, it will be definitely too late. He gives all important commands about the boat and explains the situation to everybody for them to know what to do while jump out of the boat. The captain explained that it will not be possible to get very close to the shore and these men should jump clear of the boat to be able to see where to swim (Crane 40-41). He is a true captain, because even being in the water saving his life, he does not forget about the others. As he is injured he understands that he might die, but does everything to save his crew. When he sees that cook is drowning, he commands to turn over on the back and use the oar (Crane 43). Moreover, the captain is the last to leave the boat, he is not afraid that the boat is about to overturn. Only when the correspondent paddles, the captain allows himself to leave the boat (Crane 44). Later, when the captain has been already swimming to the shore, the man from the land approaches him to help, however, the captain waves that man away and sends him to correspondent, who required that help more (Crane 45).
The captain is definitely protagonist of the story. It not obvious at the beginning of the story, but this fact becomes evident at the end of it. The captain is the consummate leader. The story shows that he has never tried to shirk from the responsibility. He has done everything to save lives of those who has entrusted their safety to him. He has been fighting for his fellowmen till the very end of the story. The story shows the conflict between the protagonist and antagonist The sea is actually the fifth character and the main antagonist of the story. The captain does everything to save his crew from the sea which has no sympathy to people. They have to survive alone against nature and the captain does everything to help three men even at cost of his life.
The captain may also be labelled as a dynamic character. Static characters remain relatively the same during the story. The captain gets over his depression and gains the new objective in his life, which is to do everything to rescue his crew. The captain remains optimistic, thinking of the way to end the frightening saga of his crew with the smallest losses possible. The captain helped his crew survive. In fact, if there had been no captain in the boat, the crew would have very small chances to live though the struggle between man and nature.
- Crane, Stephen. The Open Boat. Rector and Board of Visitors University of Virginia Library, 2003. Web. 25 Sep. 2013.