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The Open Boat, by Steven Crane, demonstrates fate vs. free will. In this story the characters are subject to contemplating how their fate is being determined, however free will cannot be dismissed as a contributor to their situation. The fine line between fate and free will, if it exists, is hard to define.

There are many philosophical and religious debates between the concepts of free will and fate. Free will is based on a belief that our future is based on the decisions that we make today. Looking back over our life at where we are is a product of our past.

Another view that is commonly suggested is fate. Fate can be considered your destiny, what you are going to become. It is a predetermined future. The world can be looked at like it is a giant play and everyone is here to just act out their part and then die.

There are many arguments that can be used to ratify both of these ideologies. A person being born into poverty in the middle city, in most cases, has certain limitations placed on his future. They will not have the same opportunities that many of have such as a good education, strong ethics and family upbringing. That a person is not able to decide his future, but it has already been chosen for him. The idea of free will can argue that " in most cases", in the above statement, is a key. There are people who have developed very successfully out of these urban areas to


accomplish great things and proving that a persons free will decides there future.

In The Open Boat naturalism comes into play as, once again, humans are shown insignificant to the forces of their world. As their first attempt at getting to shore fails they begin to feel they are not going to make it. They are asking why fate has allowed them to come so close before their lives are taken, "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 this far and contemplate the sand and the trees?" (pg.131)

Was it their fate to be given the glimmer of freedom only to have it yanked away from them by the ultimate punishment of death? "Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to nibble the sacred cheese of life?" (pg. 131) Could this have just been irony as they struggle to save their lives and at the last possible moment are denied? Why were they left on the sinking ship? Did they make choices which inevitably lead to their downfall or was this their fate?

They may have been just sailing along peacefully when the boat sprang a leak. Maybe the boat was sabotaged or it was human error that caused the boat to sink. Was it their free will to get on the boat or was it their fate?

The men may have been forced to be on the ship for economic or


related reasons. To a certain extent free will can be justified, however there is a certain point to which a person has no choice to how he must act. This could be considered fate, what he was intended to do. "It is preposterous. If this old women, Fate, cannot do better than this, she should be deprived the management of men?s fortunes." This statement makes it seem that the men were not out there under their free will. Possibly though, the sinking of the boat wasn?t their choice and getting on it was.

"No mind unused to the sea would have concluded that the dinghy could ascend these sheer heights in time." (pg.132) It was obvious that they would never make it back to shore. After the initial attempt they decided that they should head back out to sea. This could be considered free choice. They made the decision to turn around and most likely save their lives for the meantime. Was this just buying them some time? Were they going to die anyway? This could be what they were supposed to do. They weren?t destined to all die out on the sea. How can you tell if it was their choice or if it was fate that turned them back out to the open water.

The leitmotif, "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 this far and see and contemplate sand and trees." is the main view of the four sailors throughout the story.


It is hard to determine whether these characters were subject to fate or free will throughout their adventure. Is there a barrier that separates free will from fate or are their boundaries undefined? From the evidence given there seems to be a certain theme presented that shows the two coexist in unison with one another.

A certain event might happen more by fate than free will such as walking down the street and finding a hundred dollar bill on the ground. It can still be claimed that there was some free will involved in the incident, whether it was deciding to walk down that street or even getting out of bed that morning.

The same type of argument can also be used to prove that free will is not by itself. It must be left up to the individual to determine how they want to live their lives. They can decide that no matter what they do they will end up the same way because their life has already been determined. They really have no choice in what will become of them. That person can then quit work or school and sit around because his life will be the same either way.

Some may say that it was his free will to give up and sink into the depth?s of society, but maybe it was his destiny.


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