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The Open Boat: A Tale Intended to be After the Fact. Being the Experience of Four Men Sunk from the Steamer Commodore

by Stephen Crane

The Open Boat: A Tale Intended to be After the Fact. Being the Experience of Four Men Sunk from the Steamer Commodore

Published in 1897, The Open Boat is based on an actual incident from Stephen Crane’s life. While on his way to Cuba, Crane's ship sank off the coast of Florida. Crane and other survivors were stranded at sea for thirty hours. They eventually made their way to safety in a small boat, but one of the men drowned while trying to swim to shore. Crane wrote this story soon after the incident occured.

Source: Crane, S. (1894). The Open Boat: A Tale Intended to be After the Fact. Being the Experience of Four Men Sunk from the Steamer Commodore.New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Chapter 1
The men aboard a tiny boat discover they are sinking. The captain is hurt and unable to assist the men other than moral support. The men continue to fear each crashing wave that threatens to sink their dingy.
Chapter 2
While the men continue to keep the dingy afloat, the captain reassures them. Seagulls pester the men, the captain in particlar, by swooping down trying to peck at them.
Chapter 3
Led by the captain, the men continue their attempts at survival. Soon they become friends (including the correspondent who is “not of the sea”). The men build a sail out of the captain’s overcoat and an oar. They spot land and continue rowing.
Chapter 4
The men spy a small house on the shore. They cannot understand why no one on land has seen them or will help them. They aren’t aware that the area is deserted.
Chapter 5
While drifting in the ocean, the men are exhausted and there is no light. They have no company other than each other and a shark that continues to circle their small boat. The correspondent, the only one awake, hears nothing but the ocean and the shark’s body hitting the boat and fears for their safety.
Chapter 6
The men keep their frustration to themselves, but become angered by the fact that they could die when they have worked so hard to stay alive. The correspondent sees a watch fire on shore. The captain orders the men to put up the makeshift sail so that they can row to land by morning.
Chapter 7
The men can see buildings and houses on the shore, but cannot see any people. Dawn breaks and they row to shore. The captain tells them that their boat will swamp and they must jump ship and swim for the shore.
  • Year Published: 1894
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 6.5
  • Word Count: 10,012
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Keywords: 19th century literature, american literature, short stories, the open boat: a tale intended to be after the fact. being the experience of four men sunk from the steamer commodore
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