The Open Boat

by: Stephen Crane

The Oiler (Billie)

Characters The Oiler (Billie)

Of the four characters in the boat, the oiler represents the everyman, the one whom Crane intends to resemble the average person most closely. The oiler functions as the lynchpin of the crew, holding everyone together through his staunch heroism. He has the fewest delusions about the men’s physical plight, but he never gives in to the hopelessness that the others mask with idle talk about nonexistent opportunities for rescue or meditations about the cruelty of nature. Instead, the oiler maintains an image of strength, warmth, and integrity. He echoes the captain’s orders, reinforcing the social structure of the crew and instilling confidence in the others, whose outlook rises and falls with the waves.