Essay Question: Compare Tyres with The Open Boat, bring out how fate and circumstance are driving forces in each story. Comment on the method of narration in each story, along with the characterization. Tyres by Adam Thorpe and The Open Boat by Stephen Crane are two short stories with many parallels. Fate permeates both poems and the method of narration is also quite similar. The Open Boat explores four men stranded in a vast ocean within a small boat due to fate. The phrase “willy-nilly” hints that the men had no control over what was about to ensue and could not stop or change the outcome.
Fate pervades the entire story, demonstrated when the men ride along the waves. Crane uses a simple yet effective simile to describe the action within the boat – “A seat in this boat was not unlike a seat upon a bucking bronco” alluding that it would be up to fate whether they would fall out due to the boat capsizing or survive. When the men reached the shore any one of them could have died but destiny randomly selected the oiler, leaving the correspondent “grateful” for the “thud”. The random selection exposes the indifference of nature to the men.
Grateful proposes that the correspondent does appreciate the shallow extent of events that has transpired upon him as opposed to the enormity of things that may have. This links with “wishing for another chance” indicating if they survive this torture they would better themselves. Circumstance and fate is emphasized by the repetition of “If I’m 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 land and trees” displaying that fate the factor which has permitted them to remain alive this far, as well as portraying the injustice of this life-threatening situation.
Tyres recalls the story of a young man Raoul when he was an adolescent boy fixing tyres in a garage alongside his father. In conjunction with the developing relationship between him and Cecile, a girl who cycles past their shop every day. It was in fate’s plan that he’d have many chances to talk to Cecile. Circumstance is present throughout the story, for instance when Cecile is “forced by circumstance” to get into the Germans car on the same occasion which Raoul chooses to sabotage their vehicle.
Although Raoul hopes that this is just an attempt at extracting enemy information. This backfires leading to the death of Cecile and haunts Raoul for years to come shown by the final revelation of age. All flawlessly executed by fate. The style of narration in Tyres is a first person perspective from Raoul, the style is quite conversational and matter of fact creating a colloquial engagement with the reader. The story is a chain of moments remembered in accurate detail.
There is a constant use of tyre imagery and metaphors such as “I learnt to see a tyre as sad when its chin lay flat on the ground, melting away and when it was fat and full it bounced, it was so happy” presenting the reader with a fond childhood memory of his. The Open Boat is based on the author, Crane’s own experience. Hence a candid and factual narration approach. Crane employs triple construction of “the oiler rowed then the correspondent rowed, then the oiler rowed” to underline the important albeit mundane process of rowing.
Additionally the usage of omniscient narration to reveal the irony in the miscommunication between the men and the folk on shore. Fate and circumstance are key driving forces in both stories for Tyres the encounters between Cecile and Raoul were upon fate along with the demise of Cecile. In The Open Boat the lives of the four men were written in the stars. The narrative method of both stories is akin in that they are both from the viewpoint of a person who has experienced the story first hand.