Throughout Steven Crane’s “The Open Boat”, a true story experienced by the author, there are expressions of both physical and mental courage. These courageous acts are what kept up the morale in dire times and resulted in the survival of the captain and his crew. This story shows that when humans are faced with physical and mental hardships, courage is a main character trait that enables those involved to survive a harrowing situation.
There are several examples of the captain’s mental courage throughout the story. Even while struggling with what Crane describes as “defeat and despair” (Crane 2), he continues to guide his men to stay on course and is able to keep order amidst the chaos surrounding them. In this chaos the captain’s men are able to find their own bravery as a result of seeing his actions. Other examples of the captain’s selflessness and bravery can be seen when he stayed with the boat until all the other men were safe and he also directed the rescuer to save the correspondent before himself. This expression of the captain’s courageness, selflessness and leadership qualities flowed into his men causing them to exhibit feats of courage themselves.
Because of the captain’s bravery, the remaining crew members demonstrated physical acts of valor aiding in their survival. The oiler and correspondent continued to row to the point of exhaustion, even after several failed attempts to reach land. Crane demonstrates how both men heroically shared the task of rowing when he wrote, “Then the oiler took both oars: then the correspondent took both oars; then the oiler; then the correspondent. They rowed and rowed” showing that their physical endurance rose with their will to survive (Crane 3).
The second example of courage exhibited by the oiler and correspondent is shown in the passage, “But he could never command a more ready-to-obey ship’s company than the other three in the boat. It was more than a mere recognition of what was best for their safety” (Crane 4). This demonstrates how they handled the lack of control they had over the rough sea by never giving up hope and continuing to follow the captain’s orders respecting the chain of command. The fact that the men put aside mental and physical perils is a clear demonstration of bravery.
The combination of physical and mental courage expressed by the captain, correspondent and oiler are what lead to their survival. Each man was faced with personal dilemma and could have given up at anytime in the story causing the other men to follow, but all courageously fought. One might overlook the message and assume that the heroes of the story are the people on the beach that came with coffee and blankets, but the hardships met by everyone aboard the boat make them the true heroes. Their bravery allowed them to persevere and resulted in their survival. The moral of the story is one must be brave to succeed through life’s challenges.
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