Third Person (Limited Omniscient)
The narration is certainly the strangest and most controversial aspect
of "The Open Boat." The big question: is the correspondent the
The easy answer would be "yes." Stephen Crane was actually a
war correspondent that ended up on a lifeboat off the coast of Florida, so we
cannot help but presume he and the correspondent are the same people.
If that's the case, though, then what about the narrator? The story is
told from a third-person perspective, but the only mind the narrator truly has
insight into is the correspondent's mind. We could say it is "limited
omniscient" narration, but it isn't that simple because every once in a
while, the narrator assumes, or at least suggests, that all four men are having
the exact same thoughts at the exact same time. For example:
for the reflections of the men, there was a great deal of rage in them.
Perchance they might be formulated thus. (4.12)
The men in the dingey had not
discussed these matters, but each had, no doubt, reflected upon them in silence
and according to his mind. (6.6)
We get the feeling that these are really just the
correspondent's thoughts, but he's confident the other men feel the same
way he does…but even then we really don't have any proof. It's very ambiguous,
but these blurred lines are part of what make this story so gripping. It's like
we're right there with them in the tiny little boat—minus the freezing cold
water and menacing sharks.