London&Crane Naturalism Depiction

London&Crane Naturalism Depiction

Shantel Iverson
Professor DR.Weidmann,
engl 2580.
October 4,2010

It won’t be a secret that adventure stories could be characterized by the outstanding description of the nature, numerous metaphors and allusions that provide a significant impact on the plot, characteristics of the main hero and the story as a whole. The role of nature in the adventure stories at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century have its core significance and are closely connected to the Modernism development in arts and scientific technical progress, which let people to curb the nature and oppose themselves to the natural disasters. The two stories, which are analyzed in this work could be considered one of t best examples of the adventure stories, where nature is one of the core themes, providing a significant impact on them. Within the pages of this essay To Build a Fire by Jack London and The Open Boat by Stephen Crane would be analyzed. The core attention would be devoted to the use of naturalism in both stories

The Open Boat and Expression of the Naturalism within the Pages of Autobiographical Story

It would be essential to make a stress on the fact that The Open Boat is the story based on the personal experience of Stephen Crane. He tells us about the shipwreck, in which the author survived. Crane went to Cuba on the ship named the SS Commodore and planned to work there as a newspaper reporter. But the SS Commodore hit a sandbar and sank. Crane and three men from the ship chanced to survive. They had to navigate their small boat to the nearest shore and during this trip one of them, Billie Higgins sank. The story is divided into 7 seven logical parts and written from the anonymous reporter. Critics often regard to this image like to Crane’s doppelganger. From the first sentence of a book it is understood that the nature and the naturalism theme is playing very important role in the book: “NONE of them knew the color of the sky. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the waves that swept toward them. These waves were of the hue of slate, save for the tops, which were of foaming white, and all of the men knew the colors of the sea. The horizon narrowed and widened, and dipped and rose, and at all times its edge was jagged with waves that seemed thrust up in points like rocks” (Stephen Crane, 1898). From this short passage we see how masterfully the author depicted the storming sea. The wild and dangerous colors of the sea, its’ deadly frightening beauty during the storm is perfectly expressed with the help of metaphors in the story. The investigators of Crane’s creative activity consider that his style perfectly combined the naturalism and realism. In this passage we see the description of the stormy sea. Even understanding that his life is in danger the author took the brightest colors to depict the wild and dangerous beauty of the stormy sea. The whole story is based on combination of naturalism and realism and as it is the story of a survival in the tempest it is not surprising that the sea, in its wild beauty after the shipwreck became one of the central figures of the story. The anonymous doppelganger and his mates became the toys in the hands of the stormy sea. Only good luck and strong belief let these people to stay alive after the shipwreck. It goes without saying that the sea is the core natural unit in this story and the author depicted not only its wild expression, but also showed it’s another “Face”: “the sea and the sky were each of the gray hue of the dawning. Later, carmine and gold was painted upon the waters. The morning appeared finally, in its splendor with a sky of pure blue, and the sunlight flamed on the tips of the waves” (Stephen Crane, 1898). The sky, the sun are playing very important role in characterization of the sea in this story. The author started with the fact that the men could not see the color of the sky and finally the sky painted the sea warm, tender colors. It goes without saying that the naturalism theme is among the mainstream themes in this story and the author perfectly reflected it combining and contrasting imagery of the sea.

To Build a Fire and Expression of the Naturalism within the Pages of Autobiographical Story

Jack London is considered to be one of the most popular adventure authors. His novels and short stories are striking the imagination of the reader with bright colors. It should be noted that he also combined realism and naturalism in his novels and short stories. To Build a Fire is the short story where the author made the Nature one of the main heroes. Actually there are three of them a man and a dog and the Nature as antagonist, - it is actually the opponent whom a man had to confront for surviving. Also it should be noted that the final death of the man is not the reason of the Nature’s activity. It’s just exists and nothing more. The story is written from the third person. The reader meets the nature from the first passage of the book. It is characterized as grey and dull: “Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray,.. There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of sun” (Jack London, 1908). The Nature oppressed the man from the very beginning and the whole story masterfully reveals the primary conflict between the Man and the Nature. Jack London perfectly reflected the silent confrontation of these heroes. A man, in the very beginning of the story active and persistent, is opposed to the calm and pressing nature. The Nature did not make any activity, it seems that it reflect self confidence and understand its superiority upon a man, whose death in the end proves that. Calm and silent. Jack London depicts the fire as a friend of a man, as the one who can assist his living: “There was the fire, snapping and crackling and promising life with every dancing flame” (Jack London, 1908). Hence the fire compared to the image of overwhelming Nature in winter, which brings cold, ice, snow, fear and death. The fire seems to be too small to confront and oppose itself to the Nature. The disparity of the Nature raised the inside fear of the man. The image of nature did not change during the story (unlike the Crane’s Naturalism). From the beginning till the end the reader observes it dull superiority, calm and cold the same time. The confrontation between the Man and the Nature ended with the victory of the Nature and it is not surprising. The author masterfully depicted its oppressive power and from the very beginning it was obvious that the man is sentenced to death.


Both stories showed the different image of the naturalism and it should be noted that the naturalism theme played the most significant role in this adventure stories. The image the Nature reflected by the both authors so differently showed us that despite different expressive manner the life of a Man still depend from the caprice of the Nature.


Crane Stephen. The Open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure. New York: Doubleday & McClure Co. 1898
London Jack. To Build A Fire. The Century Magazine. Vol. 76. August, 1908

London&Crane Naturalism Depiction 9.7 of 10 on the basis of 4204 Review.