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The Open Boat

Stephen Crane

Character List

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

The Correspondent -  A reporter and the central character of the story. The correspondent is presumably young and able-bodied, given that he shares rowing duties with the oiler. The correspondent is also, by virtue of his profession, inclined to be cynical of men. He is pleasantly surprised to find his heart warmed by the brotherhood that he and the crew have formed in the boat. Several times, the correspondent curses nature and the gods who rule the sea and wonders whether he is really meant to drown.

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The Captain -  The captain of the ship, injured when the ship floods. The captain is calm and quiet, talking for the most part only to give directions and lead the crew to shore. The captain commands complete authority, and although he does not take part in keeping the dinghy afloat, he bears the full responsibility of getting everyone to safety. He is always alert and cool-headed, even when it looks as though he might be sleeping.

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The Cook -  The ship’s cook, who maintains a positive, even naïve, outlook on the men’s rescue. The cook is the first to suggest the presence of a lifesaving station and cannot help but turn his mind to the simple pleasures of living on land, such as his favorite pies and meats. Although he is not fit enough to help with the rowing, the cook makes himself useful by bailing water.
The Oiler (Billie) -  The only refugee from the ship to die in the final attempt at reaching land. Before the ship sank, the oiler worked a double watch in the engine room, and he is most likely to be exhausted in the dinghy. The oiler is staunch, obedient to the captain, and generous and polite to the correspondent whenever he is asked to row. The oiler also seems to be the most realistic of the men, never losing sight of the task at hand or the slim chance they have of surviving.

Read an in-depth analysis of The Oiler (Billie).

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