Below are some excerpts of notes I took on Stephen Crane's
short story "The Blue Hotel" while I was in graduate school. Note
that I have included factual information, such as the date it was published
and details of the plot, as well as ideas about themes and literary techniques.
"The Blue Hotel"
- The story appeared in an 1899 collection called The
Monster and Other Stories.
- Scully, owner of the Palace Hotel in Nebraska, persuades
a Swede, a cowboy, and an Easterner to stay at his hotel.
- The Swede and three locals play cards.
- The Swede acts as if he is paranoid, eventually accusing
the hotel owner's son, Johnnie, of trying to kill him.
- The Swede goes upstairs to pack his bags, but Scully
talks him into staying.
- The men begin playing cards again, but the Swede accuses
Johnnie of cheating, and the two go outside in the swirling snow to fight.
- The Swede wins the fight, gets drunk, and enters another
saloon, where he pesters a gambler.
- The gambler stabs the Swede.
- One of original players explains to another that he noticed
that Johnnie was cheating and failed to speak up; he takes partial responsibility
for the Swede's death and explains that all of the men had a role in the
Issues and themes
Control by chemicals and our own bodies
- Alcohol makes Swede brash and leads him to start a fight
with the gambler.
- Fragility of human body: "It shot forward, and a
human body, this citadel of virtue, wisdom, power, was pierced as easily
as if it had been a melon" (191).
Control by inner nature
- The Swede's pride causes him to start the fight with
Johnnie; he says: "Maybe you think I can't fight! Maybe you think
I can't! I'll show you, you skin, you card-sharp" (180).
- The Easterner's cowardice leads to fight: ". . .
Johnnie was cheating. I saw him. I know it. I saw him. And I refused to
stand up and be a man" (193).
- Darkness and cold outside frame these events in the saloon:
"He might have been in a deserted village. We picture the world as
thick with conquering and elate humanity, but here, with the bugles of
the tempest pealing, it was hard to imagine a peopled earth" (188).
- Realistic details: When the saloon door opens, the wind
hurls some of the playing cards against the wall.
Updated August 17, 1999 | University of North Carolina at Pembroke
© Mark Canada,
1999 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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