This week, I drew the Ace of Spades which was “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane. I was incredibly excited to read this as I loved Crane’s other, more well known work, “The Red Badge of Courage” and this did not disappoint.
The story follows four men after their ship capsized trying to navigate their lifeboat through the ocean to find land. The Captain, Oiler, Cook, and Correspondent are in the same boat (literally and figuratively) as they try to steer their way to survival. Whenever I read stories like this, I am always reminded of the three basic themes of a story: man versus man, man versus nature, and man versus himself. This story covers the latter two as the ocean and Mother Nature do their very best to capsize and drown them. The ultimate battle, however, is against their thoughts:
“‘If I am going to be drowned – if I am going to be drowned – 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?'”
How often have you worked exceptionally hard, saw the end goal in the distance, and wondered how you made it this far only to have something go terribly wrong and put the end goal in jeopardy? I honestly think this happens to me at least once a year and it is so demoralizing. Now imagine having this thought while stranded at sea in a lifeboat that is leaking and trying to make it to shore. Too often, our minds are our own worst enemy.
One thing I found interesting about this story was that this was based on his experience of being shipwrecked in 1897 (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/stephen-crane). Sometimes, the best stories are the ones that are based on true events.