Study Guide

The Cook in The Open Boat

By Stephen Crane

The Cook

We like the cook, he just seems like a good guy to us, you know? We feel kind of bad for him, too. The poor guy, he should be in the kitchen, cooking us up some delicious dinner, but instead he's stuck here on this stupid lifeboat. At least he seems to be making the best of it. He's relieved he wasn't asked to do any rowing, because it seems really tiring and he's worried the other guys would get annoyed with him for not being stronger, or not rowing hard enough. He's doing his best to remain helpful to the crew on the boat, even if sometimes he forgets to bail the water, and the captain needs to remind him (2.22). Even then, it doesn't bother the cook to be called out like that; he knows he forgets stuff sometimes. So he answers cheerfully, as always: "All right, captain" (2.23).

But, hey, let's not sell the cook short. Sure, he's the only guy in the boat wearing a life preserver, but he's not exactly in the best shape, so it sort of makes sense that he should get a little floatation assistance. We get a glimpse at the cook's bumbling brilliance when he thinks to grab one of the oars floating there in the water after being tossed from the boat. He might have needed a little help figuring out the best way to use the oar and the life-preserver to row himself to shore, but the captain was right there, as always, to help him out, and give him a little nudge in the right direction. The cook was happy to receive his advice, too: "All right, sir!" (7.24).

Yup, that's the cook, improvisational wizard, even when lost at sea. 

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