Humanity tends to see itself as being somewhat important in the grand scheme of the Universe. We speak of “fate” as if we were put here for some reason, or purpose. We have our religions, which often serve as an engine to drive our lives and as a means to give meaning to them. But why do we think of ourselves in such a superior fashion? Would the Universe stop if we were suddenly taken away? In his short story, “The Open Boat,” Stephen Crane shows us a Universe totally unconcerned with the affairs of humankind; it is an indifferent Universe in which Man has to struggle to survive.
The characters in the story come face to face with this indifference and are nearly overcome by Nature’s lack of concern. 1 In a similar account, my family was faced with the same Universe and the damage that can be done without compassion. We were faced with a fight for our lives, and the battle was a tough one. 2 My family, like the characters in the story only survived through persistence and cooperation. Crane said it best when he wrote, in our constant struggle for survival, all we have is, stubborn prideand each other.
1Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” gives us a dose of reality that at first seems bitter, but it gradually induces a catharsis and in the end stands as testament to the human spirit. His claim that the Universe will never bend to the will of man is outweighed by his reassurances that we will always have each other. And when we contemplate “a high cold star on a winter’s night”1 we will not need to feel alone, because we can always turn to another person. I learned this through my own personal struggle, but I was not alone, my family went through the same storm, and we survived together.
2My family was resting peacefully in their beds Thursday, September 21, 1989, the night that Hurricane Hugo struck the South Carolina coast. Earlier in the evening my father kissed us goodbye and went to work the night shift at his job. My grandparents had come to our house because they were staying at Myrtle Beach for vacation and the coast had been evacuated in preparation for the storm. We lived in Columbia, which was centrally located in the state, so we thought that we were out of harms way. When Hugo met with South Carolina, it brought winds that reached 140 mph and 20 ft waves to the coast. 3 At three oclock in the morning, I heard a crash that was so loud my insides felt shaken.
I heard screams, and for a moment I couldnt tell if it was my family or the wind, and the stench of pine was so thick that I was gagging. I quickly looked to the bed under me to make sure my brother was ok, and then I feared the fate of the rest of my family. My mother was in the room adjacent to ours, the same room that the crash came from. Everything happened so fast.
My mother came in, and without saying a word, she picked us both up and took us to the living room. On our way to the meeting spot, by the light of the flashlight we were carrying, I saw pine needles all over the floor, looked up, and saw the sky. I heard the hurricane laughing at us with its green face, and I could feel the rage. I was afraid, I was afraid because my father had left earlier in the night to go to work, and I still hadnt seen my grandparents.
When we found that we were all there, we quickly came up with a plan. Our decision was to go to a near by shelter because the roof of our house had ripped off. The tree had fallen in every room of the house except the two that were inhabited by people. I felt like God was with us, but the storm was raging against us. The winds were much too horrific to leave so we had to wait for the eye of the storm. .