Study Questions on The Open Boat
by Stephen Crane

Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Associate Professor of English
Ferrum College


  1. What does The Open Boat say about the perceptions and observations of men in a crisis (men facing death)?  Why are the men enraged at being near the shore?

  2. What is the effect of our being told early in the story that the men are not near a rescue station?

  3. Why does Crane deliberately place the dinghy's crew in sight of land in the story?   What does the serenity of the scene on land emphasize about their situation and about humanity's relation to Nature?

  4. How does the realism in this story compare to the realism in other works we have studied?

  1. The Open Boat, according to one critic, represents Crane's vision of "a universe essentially indifferent to man."  Do you agree?  Why?.

  2. How does the indifference of nature affect the correspondent's view of life and the relationships of the men?

  3. Many works of literature deal specifically with Nature and humanity's relations with it. How does Crane's work differ from others on this theme? Consider, for instance, the dependence upon Nature (and the distrust of man) evident in Twain and Whitman in connection with the view implicit, and often explicit, in Crane.



  1. Why has The Open Boat been called an impressionistic masterpiece?  How does understatement contribute to the general effect of the story? What moral effect does it have that an objective newspaper account of the incident would not have?

  2. How does Crane's view of the human community arise out of his view of the nature forces surrounding and working upon men? What elements of naturalistic writing are evident in this story?

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