The boys and I read this story earlier this year and it ranked in my top 3 stories for the year (out of about 300 stories/poems). I made an oil painting to go with this story – actually- the oil painting depicts the former SS Commodore (coming straight ahead) because when this boat sank, Crane spent a day and a half adrift at sea with three other guys. It was Crane’s traumatic experience with the Commodore sinking that led to the clever story he created in “The Open Boat.”
One of the things I love about the Open Boat (besides the rich adjectives, irony, and personality of the characters) has to do with the two parts of the story. First, the men endure a night at sea and endure the harsh conditions. The next day, they are close to shore, see people, and assume that help is on the way. They even find four cigars and a usable match to celebrate! However, part 2 of the saga begins when the men realize that nobody is coming to rescue them! Nada. Critics tend to expound on this story to talk about the deceptive nature of reality and human limitations, but I like the simple, straight forward scenario Crane develops: here we have 4 exhausted survivors that need to fight again in order to beat the surf and make it to shore!
The shore is SO close, but still SO FAR off because of the treacherous surf stands in the way – yet the men push on! They must not give up. And this pushing on from exhaustion – with the people waving from the beach, well it reminded me of some of the trials life can bring at times. Sometimes tired and exhausted – we find that a situation may have a “part 2” that needs even more persevering and enduring! And sometimes someone may even feel a void of proper support (support that appears to be so close and should be meeting that need, but is not) or someone may be dismayed because the perceived help was not a rescue.
Sometimes we have to endure and fight hard to keep going – even when mentally we thought things would have been over at a certain time. Joyce Meyer calls it staying stable while not having a pity party about what “should have been”! And the Bible reminds us that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength – that He will work all things FOR our good (Romans 8:28) and He who calls us is also the One who will bring it to pass!
And for those of us working on our dissertation – the part 2 of our diss journey comes after we finish comps. Once we pass, we light our celebratory cigars (so to speak) – however, after moving on from comps and after feeling the joy of finding that last dry match- well we soberly wake up to the dissertation courses, which involves a new situation to work through – the surf, or red tape, is what we call ABD status (All But Dissertation). It is a time when we feel so close to shore, but that shoreline is not easy to reach! While still exhausted from surviving at sea for some time – we now find a stretch of treacherous surf still stands in the way of reaching the much-needed dry land. Some will make it, some will not (and the stats show this is when many diss students drop out).
Anyhow, this story is a good read for everyone because Stephen Crane takes us on an adventurous journey that stirs up some gratefulness and perspective. And in our own lives, when part 2 (or 5 or 10) of a situation comes along, or when trials seem to last for quite a l o n g time, may we never give up; instead, may we keep pushing on, developing grit – knowing that God will either deliver us from something or He will deliver us through it!
“The correspondent did not know all that transpired afterward. When he
achieved safe ground he fell, striking the sand with each particular
part of his body. It was as if he had dropped from a roof, but the thud
was grateful to him.”