Naturalistic literature was used by popular authors between the 1880’s and early 1940’s. Naturalistic literature was a great tool used to show the distinct role that environment can play on humans mentally and physically. Naturalistic literature can be broken down in few different areas: How nature affects human (man vs. nature), how it shows people there is no order in the universe, that nature is not only cruel but indifferent, and how society deals with these issues. In most situations this struggle with nature’s cruelty can make humans search for their reason to live.
Throughout history there has been many great naturalistic literature examples like: Eugene O‘Neil “The Hairy ape”, Jack London’s “To build a Fire” or Stephan Cranes “The Open boat. ” These examples express in great detail that humans struggling either against nature or social issues shape their lives. In Stephen Cranes “The Open Boat” there many examples of naturalism and the characters fighting against nature to survive. Stephen Crane uses all different Naturalistic characteristics to bring his story to life. This particular story is a great example of Man Vs. Nature because of its dangerous setting.
The “The Open boat” takes place on the Atlantic Ocean after the S. S Commodore sank off the coast of Florida. The S. S Commodore was an ammunitions ship on its way to Cuba, in the late 1890s. This incident was a first-hand experience by writer and journalist Stephen Crane. Stephen Crane shows examples of man looking for signs in nature to belong and how the universe has no structure. It illustrates how the crew had no place battling against nature. In this Short story the author illustrates first hand experiences of four crew members and their journey to survive.
The irst example of literature naturalism in Stephen Cranes “the open boat” happens in the opening paragraph describing the rough terrain that the crew is about to endure. The story takes place right after the S. S Commodore has sunk off the coast of Florida, and Crane introduces the four man crew. The charters consist of the captain, the cook, the correspondent, and the oiler. There is only limited detail of their personalities and names. Then, Crane describes the ocean in great detail, and makes the reader feel the strength of waves and fear to survive. For example Stephen Crane writes None of them knew the color of the sky. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the waves that swept toward them.
These waves were of the hue of slate, save for the tops, which were of foaming white, and all of the men knew the colors of the sea. The horizon narrowed and widened, and dipped and rose, and at all times its edge was jagged with waves that seemed thrust up in points like rocks. Many a man ought to have a bath-tub larger than the boat which here rode upon the sea. These waves were most wrongfully and barbarously abrupt and tall, and each froth-top was a problem in small-boat navigation”.
Stephen Crane “The Open Boat”) After, reading this passage a reader almost can see the whites of the waves and feel the fear that overcomes the men. The crew has had a long journey too safety and it’s clearly the crew against the ocean. Another way naturalism is used by authors of this time period is showing just how uncaring and unpredictable nature can be. In Stephan Cranes “The Open Boat” even though the crew members were experienced they couldn’t expect these conditions. As you read throughout the story you can get the feeling of the rough conditions, and the fear of survival.
Stephen Crane in great detail explains the strength that nature can produce for example he writes: “As the boat bounced from the top of each wave, the wind tore through the hair of the hatless men, and as the craft plopped her stern down again the spray splashed past them. The crest of each of these waves was a hill, from the top of which the men surveyed, for a moment, a broad tumultuous expanse, shining and wind-riven. It was probably splendid. It was probably glorious, this play of the free sea, wild with lights of emerald and white and amber. (Stephen Crane “The Open Boat”) From this passage a reader can imagine the life raft and just how violent nature can be. We as humans don’t realize the power of nature until it affects us first hand.
A person in New York doesn’t know the power of a hurricane like residents of Florida, at the same time Floridian’s don’t know the power of a blizzard like a New Yorker. Also, throughout the story the men see different things around them that alter there thinking and make them realize just how cruel nature can be for example: The birds sat comfortably in groups, and they were envied by some in the dingey, for the wrath of the sea was no more to them than it was to a covey of prairie chickens a thousand miles inland. ” (Stephen Crane “The Open Boat”) In this quote the crew sees the birds and thinks of them differently. When they were safe on land they passed birds every day not noticing or caring about them. Now the role has changed, and the birds are shedding no concern for men. Another key part author use to show naturalism of this time period is the confusion humans have with order in the universe.
Humans seem to think the universe has a structure and people are a major factor. The truth is humans are a just a small piece of the puzzle. In this time period many authors will often have their charters ask themselves “why me? ” or “why did I live and they died? ” These questions expand the mind and make us feel small in an unexplained big world. In Stephen Cranes “the open boat” the charters come to ask themselves “why me and not them“. The crew in “the open boat” wants to know why they lived and have been dragged this far? For example the correspondent says: if I am going to be drowned – why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees? Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to nibble the sacred cheese of 2 life? It is preposterous. ” (Stephen Crane “The Open Boat”) This passage the correspondent is preying to a higher power and realizing there is much more than just him. It also illustrates the confusion he has of being alive and wondering how much more will come. The correspondent wants to know why a greater power has chosen him over another and when will they choose him.
Another, example in the “The open boat” of no structure in the universe is the fact that the “oilier” dies in the end. The author tell the reader just a little about the personality traits of the men, but describes them just enough to know. The Captain, Cook and Correspondent at different points just wanted to give up. The reader would think the Captain may die because of his injury or that the cook would starve. The reader wouldn’t think the oilier would die. The oilier throughout the story continue to row the crew into safety. He was the strongest and a hardiest worker and didn’t make it to the end.
Naturalistic literature can be broken down in few different areas: How nature effects human (man vs. nature), how literature show people there is no order in the universe, how nature is not only cruel but indifferent, and how society deals with these new issues. Between the 1880’s and the early 1900’s there are few authors that test these points, and made readers expanding their thoughts. Some people go through life thinking we deserve things and don’t see the bigger picture. Humans tend to think they are somehow important to the universe, in actuality we are a small part of the picture.
In Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” he gives many examples of naturalism and a man’s struggle verse nature. All these examples test man’s ability to survive. At first these examples seem overtaking, but it eventually tests human ability and endurance. Stephen Crane tests are mines on natural selection and the order of the universe. Also, in great detail he illustrates just how uncaring the world can be. Work Cited Crane, Stepehen . ”The Open Boat. ” The Norton Anthology American Literature. Ed. Nina baym. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1998. 603-619. Print.