This study will rank five pieces of literature, from "best" to "least good." The works are an excerpt from Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery, an excerpt from W.E.B. Dubois' The Souls of Black Folk, Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat," and Henry Adams' "Chaos" and "The Dynamo and the Virgin," two sections from Adams' The Education of Henry Adams. The criteria I used to rank the works are simply how much each story affected me on two levels---emotional and intellectual. In other words, how much did each work move me in some way emotionally, and how much did each work stimulate me mentally.
According to this criteria, I rank Crane's "The Open Boat" the best work of the five, followed in order by DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk, Adams' "Chaos," Adams' "The Dynamo and the Virgin," and, the "least good" piece, Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery.
Crane's story is very clearly the most emotionally moving of the five works. It is the only piece of fiction of the five, and as such it "tells a story" in a way that the others do not. One of the purposes of a short story is to entertain and excite the emotions, especially when the story is about a small boat carrying four shipwrecked sailors in danger of drowning in stormy seas. The story is not only exciting in terms of not knowing the fate of these men, it is also mentally stimulating in the way it makes the reader think about his or her own life and imminent death.
The other four works are non-fiction, and they are all mentally stimulating to some degree. They make the reader actively use his or her mind in a way that Crane's story does not. Crane's story sweeps the reader along in a way that the mind and the emotions of the reader are intertwined---thinking and feeling are happening at the same time. In the four other pieces, there is less emotional involvement on the part of the reader.
I have ranked the four other pieces according to the same criteria---how much do the...