Study Guide

The Open Boat Section 7

By Stephen Crane

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Section 7

  • The next time the correspondent opens his eyes, it's dawn. The sun slowly rises over the waves. Hey, they can see the sky now. Maybe it's a sign.
  • In the distance they can see sand dunes, some cottages, and a white windmill, but nothing moving. The village looks deserted.
  • The men discuss their options. The captain says that if no one's coming to help them, they should try to make it to shore on their own while they still have the strength to swim. They'll steer into the surf, and then swim for shore.
  • The men reluctantly agree.
  • The correspondent looks up at the windmill and thinks it represents nature, blindly indifferent to the actions of humankind.
  • It's possible that a man, seeing this "unconcern of the universe," might regret how he lives his life, and want to go back and live it all over again (7.3). The difference between right and wrong seems "absurdly clear to him" now (7.3).
  • The captain says the boat is going to swamp soon. They need to get her as close to shore as possible, and then, when she swamps, jump out and swim for shore. It's an intense moment.
  • The oiler is rowing. The correspondent is watching the others. He knows they aren't scared, but otherwise can't really read how the others feel. He's so ridiculously tired he can't really grasp what's about to happen.
  • The captain reminds the men to jump as far from the boat as possible, so it doesn't hit them.
  • The waves start crashing around them. Some water comes into the boat and the cook bails it out.
  • Another wave comes, and spins the boat around. The boat is now filled with so much water that it starts to sink. The next wave overwhelms the boat, and the men spill out into the water.
  • As he falls out, the correspondent grabs hold of a piece of a life preserver that had been laying in the bottom of the boat.
  • The correspondent notes the water is much colder than he would have expected it to be off the coast of Florida. It is January, after all. The water is so cold that it makes him sad—he almost wants to cry.
  • He looks around for the other men. The oiler is way up in the front, swimming quickly and strongly toward shore. The captain is hanging onto the upside-down boat.
  • The correspondent stares at the shore; it looks so steady compared to the crazy crashing sea.
  • The captain tells the heavy-set cook to turn over onto his back and float. He does.
  • The correspondent feels himself trapped in a current, but a wave finally frees him.
  • The correspondent thinks that drowning actually doesn't sound so bad. At least he wouldn't suffer anymore—but then he sees a man on the beach. The man is throwing off his clothing, running to come rescue them. Talk about a dramatic (and nude) rescue.
  • As he approaches the boat, the correspondent is tossed high in the air by a big wave, right into water that's only waist-deep. Even then, the waves keep knocking him over.
  • The man on the beach wades into the water totally naked, and drags the cook to shore. He approaches the captain, but the captain directs him toward the correspondent. He pulls him to safety as well.
  • Both men then notice the oiler, face down in the shallow water, his forehead periodically touching the sand, but being pulled away with every wave.
  • The correspondent is a little delirious. He feels like he fell off a roof, but nevertheless he's happy to be on land.
  • Out of nowhere, lots of people come running with blankets, clothing, coffee, "and all the remedies sacred to their minds" (7.38).
  • The oiler's dead body is carried from the water onto the beach.
  • The night comes, and the waves still crash against the beach. The wind brings the sound of the waves onto land, and the men feel "they could then be interpreters" (7.39).

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