Source: Lit2Go (Chapter 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 )
Length: 59 min.
Reader: Lorraine Montgomery
The book: "The Open Boat" tells of four men from the shipwreck of a steamer attempting to make it to the Florida coast in a small dinghy. The story is based on Crane's own experiences of surviving a shipwreck in 1897. The captain, a cook, an oiler, and the correspondent (Crane himself) have to contend with the sea to stay afloat. The story is peculiar in that little is said of the actual shipwreck. Instead, Crane narrows his focus to the four men and their puny surroundings.
The Romanticism popular through most of the 19th century held Nature as a godlike character , ready to reward the just and punish the wicked. Crane, on the other hand, writes in a realistic style, portraying nature as simply an uncaring force. The men in the boat fight against this notion by asserting that they do not deserve this punishment and asking, Job-like, "Why me? Why here?" Although Nature is shown to be unfeeling, Crane contrasts it with the great comradeship between the shipwrecked men. His descriptions of the individuals within the boat are loving portraits, flaws and all. Without this, the story would have carried a despondent view of the smallness of mankind in an vast indifferent universe. Instead, Crane holds out the hope that the brotherhood of man can give our lives significance even when those lives can so unexpectedly be cut short.
The reader: Montgomery has a pleasant alto voice that expresses the weariness, frustration, and occasional humor of Crane's story, but never indulges ruining the piece's naturalism by overacting. Although she reads with an American accent at a slow pace, it is not so slow that it becomes tedious. The recording is well-produced and professional, though there are some slight noises and page-turning in the background. The mp3 files are located on separate pages for each of the seven chapters, which requires the minor, but unnecessary, inconvenience of several extra clicks to access.
(photo "At Humanity's Call" (1895) from the British National Archives via flickr. No copyright restrictions)