Open Boat And The Red Badge Of Courage By Stephen Crane Cranes Use of Companionship, Through the Effects of Nature, in The Open Boat and Red Badge of Courage In both of these stories, The Open Boat and The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane uses the theme of companionship. The way in which he uses this theme differs in some ways but are also comparable in both stories. In both stories, it is evident that the men all need each other, both mentally and physically. Without one another, it would be inevitable that each and every one of the characters would not have been able to move on and survive without one another. Another similarity between both stories is that an act of nature is what really brings the men together.
Yet, another similarity is the fact that in both stories, the men think of themselves throughout the massive ordeals. In The Open Boat, each man wonders to himself, why me, why now? Similarly, in The Red Badge of Courage, Henry feels compelled to believe that he will run cowardly during battle and try to escape death, of which he was terribly afraid. It is evident that in both cases, there is a moment of self-discovery where all characters are forced to take a step back from all the commotion and gather themselves in order for each of them to survive together. In The Open Boat, the sea storm is the act of nature that draws the men to depend on one another, and in The Red Badge of Courage, the act of nature is a combination of both the squirrel and the dead man against the tree. In both cases, nature has the ultimate say in how the men respond.
In The Open Boat, companionship is what allows the men to survive. Without all of the men working together as a team, the small dinghy would have definitely sunk. Had the men not taken turns rowing and sleeping, the fate of those men would have been sealed. Again, it is completely evident that without one another, each of the men would have either gone mad or simply drown. This idea of companionship is comparable in The Red Badge of Courage.
In this story, Henry Fleming, who you will be introduced to later, doesnt learn the idea and realize the importance of companionship until he himself goes through change and learns the necessity of being there for one another. Fleming learns the hard way, after realizing that he has shamed himself and what he stands for by running, and knowing all of this, makes up for his actions by putting in that extra effort when it was needed. Some may say too little, too late, but in the long run, Henry proved his worth not only to himself, but to his fellow comrades. Like The Open Boat, the point of both stories is that this companionship means the world to each and every one character and it is evident that survival would not have been possible without it. Of all Cranes works The Open Boat is the most direct manifestation of his belief that no man can interpret life without first experiencing it(Omnibus 420).
In Cranes The Open Boat, the morale and simple idea of having someone, a companion, there besides you through it all, is what allows these men to survive. This is exactly the case with this story. The Captain, without the Oiler, Correspondent, and the Cook, and interchangeably, would not be able to survive without one another out at sea. It would be difficult to describe the subtle brotherhood of men that was here established on the seas. No one said that it was so.
No one mentioned it. However, it dwelt in the boat, and each man felt it warm him. They were a captain, an oiler, a cook , and a correspondent, and they were friends, friends in a more curiously iron-bound degree than may be common(Maggie 30). The comradeship between these four men was very strong and is what allowed most of them to live. The fate of all of these men lay in the hands of each other and it seems that the men felt assurance in that.
It seemed as though every man had their own intuition of landing safely on shore. They even went as far as believing that there were people intended, in this world, t save them from danger. With the exception the oiler who has kept his head the entire time seeing the realism in their situation; although it is kind of ironic that he is the only one who doesnt make it. A symbolic detail at the very beginning of The Open Boat prepares for the final incident, the death of the oiler. He is represented by the oar he steers:It was a thin little oar and it seemed often ready to snap(Omnibus 417).
However, the idea that each of these men thought about themselves and how each of them were going to live, this idea of comradeship is questioned. Each of these men began to question the sea, Mother Nature, and each other. The whole affair is absurd But no, she cannot mean to drown me. Not after all of this work(Maggie 35). The anger built up over this frequently asked question seemed to take its toll on the morale of each of the men.
The selfishness of each of the men is seen in the past quotation; the idea of the men thinking of me. Again, it is not until such an act of nature to bring about the theme of companionship amongst these men. It is not until after each of the men, respectively, asked that same question that they realize that they must work together in order to survive. This is the same exact type of situation that occurs in Red Badge in which only an act of nature can bring about such a change of heart. It is not until nature takes her toll on the men that they act almost like children, longing for the companionship of one another.
After taking turns rowing, being exhausted from this task, and having Gawd knows what running through their heads, do they come to realize the importance of each others company, both mentally and physically. Nevertheless, it is true that he (the correspondent)did not wish to be alone. He wished one of his companions to awaken by chance and keep him company with it(45). It seems that this goes on throughout the entire story; each of the men feeling afraid and lonely through it all and then having that feeling of comfort through each others company. I definitely think that this is what allowed the men to survive. In the end, it is through the roughness of nature that each man gains some wisdom and is able to gain compassion for the worth of the lives of each other.
At the end of the story, it is evident that each man, with the exception of the oiler, has beaten their fear of both nature, the sea, and death. The challenges of battling out nature take its toll on these men, who fought with all of their heart, souls, and mind. With the example of the correspondent having the naked man save his friends rather than take to the needs of himself, it is apparent that each man is completely engulfed with the well being of each other. In the end, none of the men are thinking about their own lives, rather they seem to be more interested in seeing each of the men that helped them survive, be the ones who make it out alive. Through the hardship that they have just endured, they feel that their visions of safety must be met. Unfortunately, all but one make it out alive. Perhaps an individual must consider his own death to be the final phenomenon of nature(54).
It is obvious here that every detail or image is patterned, one thing linked to another, and thus designed, the short story evokes a significance transcending the literal, experienced, event(Biography 257). As I have shown, it is evident that each of the men, naturally, through their hardships, thinks of themselves first and what is going to happen to them. It is not until some force of nature literally smacks them upside the back of the head before they realize the importance of each other and how none would have survived without each other. This idea is also strongly proven in Cranes The Red Badge of Courage. It isnt until Fleming realizes that through his ordeal with the squirrel and the dead man that he realizes he must act as one with his fellow soldiers in order for any good to come of it.
Unfortunately, like in The Open Boat, not everyone escapes death, but if the characters in both stories had not acted as one, would any of them have lived? In the course of the novel, Henry Fleming, a young soldier from New York State, gives up his romantic dreams of war once he makes it through the trials of battle and begins to understand the true meaning of courage. As Henry will soon realize, war changes men and the mentality of these men. The experience of war transforms even Wilson, a loud, headstrong, and proud soldier, to overcome his anxiety. In short, Henry is somewhat wiser to the brutal affairs of war, and as a result, he understands more about himself and his own prowess. Henry can see himself as the hero of the group, for his seizure of the flag is Henry’s ultimate rite of passage.
Like Henry, Wilson also begins the book as an immature, boastful young soldier, but through battle, he reexamines himself and gains wisdom and compassion. As the regiment prepares for their first battle, Henry Fleming asks Wilson whether he shares his fears, but the loud soldier spouts confidently, We’ve got em now. At last, by the eternal thunders, we’ll lick em good! (Great …