Study Guide

The Open Boat Setting

By Stephen Crane

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Off the Coast of Florida, January 1897

We actually know exactly when and where this story is intended to have taken place, because Crane based the story on his own experience in a lifeboat off the coast of Florida. The area was formerly named the Mosquito Inlet (as mentioned in the story, 1.12, 1.19, 2.24, et al), and is currently known as the Ponce de León Inlet.

The fact that the men can see the shore for most of the story heightens and sustains the tension of the story, making rescue seem infuriatingly close, but still impossibly distant. The appearance of the vacationers on resort are a clever reminder that, despite the fate-altering turn that has overtaken the men in the lifeboat, life beyond the boat goes on, same as it ever was. We can't help but agree with the correspondent, either: we're surprised that the water is so cold off the coast of Florida, too. 

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