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Symbolism and Devices in Stephen Crane’s The Open Boat

An Examination of Symbolism and Devices in The Open Boat

The struggle for survival by mankind can be found in many different settings. It can be seen on a battlefield, a hospital room or at sea as related in “The Open Boat”, written in 1897 by Stephen Crane. The story is based on his actual experiences when he survived the sinking of the SS Commodore off the coast of Florida in early 1897. “The Open Boat” is Stephen Crane’s account of life and death at sea told through the use of themes and devices to emphasize the indifference of nature to man’s struggles and the development of mankind’s compassion.

The story’s theme is related to the reader by the use of color imagery, cynicism, human brotherhood, and the terrible beauty and savagery of nature. The symbols used to impart this theme to the reader and range from the obvious to the subtle. The obvious symbols include the time from the sinking to arrival on shore as a voyage of self-discovery, the four survivors in the dinghy as a microcosm of society, the shark as nature’s random destroyer of life, the sky personified as mysterious and unfathomable and the sea as mundane and easily comprehended by humans. The more subtle symbols include the cigars as representative of the crew and survivors, the oiler as the required sacrifice to nature’s indifference, and the dying legionnaire as an example of how to face death for the correspondent.

The opening paragraph of the story emphasizes the limitations of the individual’s vision of nature. From the beginning, the four characters in the dingy do not know “the colors of the sky,” but all of them know “the colors of the sea.” This opening strongly suggests the symbolic situations in which average peo…

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…and an equally indifferent relationship between humans. These styles are blended in the story by Crane’s varied role of Nature and humans throughout the story and the use of symbols and different imagery.

The theme of this story is actually stated in the story if it is read carefully and Crane reinforces it innumerable times. The theme of the story is man’s role in nature and is related to the reader through the use of color imagery, cynicism, human brotherhood, and the terrible beauty and savagery of nature. The story presents the idea that every human faces a voyage throughout life and must transition from ignorance to comprehension of mankind’s place in the universe and among other humans.

Works Cited

Crane, Stephen. “The Open Boat.” Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. 6th ed. Vol. C. New York: Norton, 2003.

Dreams and Success in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Dreams and Success in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

In Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman, Miller probes the dream of Willy Lowman while making a statement about the dreams of American society. This essay will explore how each character of the play contributes to Willy’s dream, success, and failure.

Willy is the aging salesman whose imagination is much larger than his sales ability. Willy’s wife, Linda, stands by her husband even in his absence of realism. Biff and Happy follow in their father’s fallacy of life. Willy’s brother, Ben is the only member of the Loman family with the clear vision necessary to succeed. Charlie and his son Benard, on the other hand, enjoy better success in life compared to the Lomans.

Miller has written an ambiguous play – unwilling to commit himself to a firm position with respect to tawdry business ethic and the ?industrialized? American dream. Miller alludes to an earlier version of the American dream – escape to the West and the farm, but he then denies us the fulfillment of our expectations. The play makes no judgment on America, although Miller seems always on the verge of one. But Willy is not a tragic hero; he is a foolish and ineffectual man for whom we feel pity. We cannot equate Willy?s failure to realize his dream with the failure of the American dream. Indeed, there is a lot of room for failure as well as great success in America. The system is not the one to blame. Willy can only blame himself for not becoming what he wanted to be.

The next character, Willy Loman’s wife Linda, is not part of the solution but rather part of the problem with this dysfunctional family and their inability to see things for what they really are. Louis Gordon …

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…ly one of them capable of achieving success. However, Charlie and his son Bernard were able to achieve greatness and to make the system work for them. In the end, the decision to make it in this American system is, ironically, up to the individual.

Works Cited

Eisinger, Chester E. “Focus on Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’: The Wrong Dreams,” in American Dreams, American Nightmares, (1970 rpt In clc. Detroit: Gale Research. 1976 vol. 6:331

Foster, Richard J. (Confusion and Tragedy: The Failure of Miller’s ‘Salesman’ (1959) rpt in clc. Detroit: Gale Research. 1983 vol. 26:316

Gardner, R. H. (“Tragedy of the Lowest Man,” in his Splintered Stage: (1965) rpt in clc. Detroit: Gale Research. 1983 vol. 2l6:320

Gordon, Lois “Death of a Salesman”: An Appreciation, in the Forties: 1969) rpt in clc. Detroit: Gale Research. 1983 vol. 26:323

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