Study Guide

The Open Boat Writing Style

By Stephen Crane

Writing Style

Metaphysical Journalism

On its surface, "The Open Boat" is a dutifully objective retelling of the experience of four men on a lifeboat. It's the kind of disaster story that we are familiar with reading about in the newspaper—but within that structure, it deepens and widens. Crane is able to both peer into the existential crises the men are experiencing, and make a grand statement about the nature of existence as a whole.

With this in mind, we can almost draw a line between this sort of journalism and the sort of pieces David Foster Wallace would write one hundred years later, in which assignments like taking a cruise or attending a lobster festival, would expand to include questions of ethics and aesthetics, conscience and consciousness.

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