Stephen Crane, Yasunari Kawabata: Their Metaphor on Nature, Boats, and Crickets


Analysis on the Open Boat: Crane’s Destruction in Sea Form

Stephen Crane Source: WikiMedia

Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane used intense realism, or naturalism, in his short story “The Open Boat” to convey a sense of helplessness upon those involved in the ship wreck. The story presented the Five Stages of Grief where denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are consistent themes. Through his naturalistic writing, Stephen Crane developed a story where the four sailors are bound to nature’s indecency.

The sailors rowed easily at the start. With a strong and focused conviction, they searched for shore. Their muscles deteriorated along with their mental ability to remain motivated. During the moments when the crew thought they found land they went through the Five Stages of Grief. Happiness exploded as the cottage and light house came into view, however, no one came to their aide. This led to denial of the situation. The cook stated someone will be out to save them even though the reader is let known that, “It is fair to say that there was not a life-saving station within twenty miles of either direction.”

Anger and bargaining came into play. They see an omnibus and onlookers, quite an ambiguous event, where blurry dots on the beach resembled people; however, in their situation they took to hope. After arduous efforts to get in touch with the mirages on shore, the sailors became angry and even stated “I’d like to catch the chump who waved the coat. I feel like socking him one, just for luck.”


Repetition of the men’s bargaining tactics correlated to their desperation. The men feared the ocean. To be drowned, the last thing each of them wanted, after coming so far created hopelessness. The third of the five stages of grief can be expressed in the repetitious statement: “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 thus far and contemplate sand and trees?” This pointed back to Stephen Crane’s naturalism where nature played a role in the fate of humanity.

Depression sets in. The shrinking sun brings with it the realization that help will not arrive. Hope dwindled as the cold night air forced their lungs open and closed with distinctive shutters. The correspondent rowed the boat for majority of the night. He commented often on the soreness of their muscles and the inescapable fear that the ocean produced; he even wished the captain let him know he was awake while a shark swam underneath them.

Acceptance gleamed in the eyes of the correspondent when they are about to get to land and the boat gets swamped. The men are made to swim for it. A current caught the correspondent and after it freed him he thought, “In his struggle to reach the captain and the boat he reflected that when one gets wearied drowning must really be a comfortable arrangement.”

During the Five Stages, a common factor emerged: Nature played an enormous role in the destiny of these men. Stephen Crane portrayed the dangerous side of nature, the wickedness it can cause; yet he did not make nature kill the sailors. Instead, nature forgave the men, so nature allowed them to as long as they had the tenacity to do so. In conclusion, nature can be wicked, but it is up to our human strengths to make nature aware that we will not die without a fight.

“The Open Boat” Audio Book

An analysis of The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket, Kawabata’s Life and Logic

Yansuri Kawabata Source: Wiki Media

Yansuri Kawabata
Source: Wiki Media

In “The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket” Kawabata started off with a narrator portrayed as “I,” which left a sense of ambiguity to the reader. The “I” walked through a park where he felt comfortable and heard a voice. The narrator stated, “Walking more slowly and listening to that voice, and furthermore reluctant to part with it” (pg. 378, para. 1). A connection to that voice developed as the narrator walked while it also portrayed a metaphor for the mans life; he is in search of something that will make his life more substantial. Kawabata used anecdote, symbolism,
and metaphor to create a story resembling his life.

A rendition of Kiyoko and Fujio. Source: CsGIntellectuelle

A rendition of Kiyoko and Fujio.
Source: CsGIntellectuelle

 An orphan at an early age, the stories anecdotal references to Kawabata’s troubled life, and death experiences, (Nextext, About the Author) are reflected in the lanterns Kawabata described in detail. The uniqueness of them portrayed the uniqueness of each child. The narrator stated, “the children made new lanterns out of their hearts and minds” (Norton, pg. 378, para. 3) which can point to a more spiritual aspect to the lanterns that can be connected to Kawabata’s unique upbringing. Being an orphan, one can assume that Kawabata led a hard life where only his uniqueness gave him the strength to continue daily. This idea is accentuated with the narrator’s curious obsession with the children.

This obsession is created by the symbolism used by Kawabata. The signs hidden in the lanterns that showed each child’s uniqueness accentuated the idea of the eternal self. Kawabata in most of his writings pulled from Asian cultural tones and ideas. (Nextext, About the Author) The lanterns are one example and the portrayal of the child’s name in each lantern portrayed the eternal self – a very extensive idea in Asian culture, specifically, Japanese.

Symbolism is further enhanced by the introduction of two insects, each with their own form of metaphor. The grasshopper, in Japanese culture, can be referred to as virtue and love and the idea of a leap of faith. Initially, the boy in the story, Fujio, stated “Does anyone want a grasshopper.” (Norton, pg. 378, para. 5) He incited the excitement of the other children, however, he does not give in to their wishes. He continued to state “Does anyone want a grasshopper” until he gets the attention of one girl in particular – Kiyoko. The narrator took notice of this event and even felt “sheepish” for a moment and exclaimed, “How silly of me not to have understood his actions until now.” (Norton, pg. 379, para. 21) The narrator acknowledged this event as a leap of faith on part of Fujio for the sake of love.

Source: Jyuluck

Source: Jyuluck

The exchange between Fujio and Kiyoko transformed the situation and the next form of Kawabata’s symbolism took place. The supposed grasshopper turned out to be a bell cricket which broke the symbolism of the grasshopper and replaced it with the symbolic message of luck and prosperity. Kawabata used a metaphor to explain how things are often not as they seem and shed light onto the cynical point of view of the narrator. Accentuated by the narrator’s lack of faith, which is the very idea the bell cricket represented, the narrator used an elaborate example of the boys name “shining” on the girl’s breast and the girls name “shining” on the boy’s hip to give the idea of names and the eternal self. The narrator stated, “I will think it a pity that you have no way to remember tonight’s play of light.” This nudged the reader further into Kawabata’s metaphor where the world is designed to hide the truth to an individual, so much so, that the narrator remarked with conviction, “And finally, to your clouded, wounded heart, even a true bell cricket will seem like a grasshopper.” Though that sentence is meant to be cynical, the narrator showed hope by continuing to say, “when your name was written in green by your beautiful lantern on a girl’s breast.” (Norton, pg. 380, para. 26, 27) His name is something that will be remembered because it is what defined the eternal self and, in turn, defined the boy’s uniqueness.

Kawabata, a spiritual writer, puts a lot of Japanese symbolism into his stories. Because of his background and the life he lived, it showed within his writing. His anecdotal influence played upon the symbolism within “The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket” which wrapped up the intense metaphor at the end and gave life to Kawabata’s ideals of uniqueness.

Sources Cited:

1. “The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket, Background, About the Author,.”Nextext, McDougal Littell. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995. Web. 2008. < 26target%3Dworldlit%26file%3Dworldlit_lsn_10.cfm%26type%3Dstudent>.

2. Mays, Kelly J. “The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket by Yasunari Kawabata and The Open Boat by Stephen Crane”The Norton Introduction to Literature. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. Print.

3. “Stephen Townley Crane.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2014. Web. 10 July 2014.

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