Stephen Crane’s well-known narrative. “The Blue Hotel” lends itself readily to allegorical readings. While by and large regarded as a naturalist author. the significance of Crane’s “The Blue Hotel” traditionally extends beyond the journalistic impact of the narrative. to the resonance of its more complex. possibly cosmopolitan. subjects. Though countless readings of the narrative exist in literary scholarship. the preponderance of critics seem to acknowledge the cardinal subject of “The Blue Hotel” as that of: the foreigner versus the collective. “The subject of the narrative: against a existence which in its indifference seems hostile and malevolent. adult male can merely keep order and significance in this life if he recognizes and fulfills his duty as a nexus in “the magnetic concatenation of humanity. ” ( Gibson. 115 )
On the surface. the narrative recounts a frontier motive of action: a crooked card game. a slaying. and the murder’s wake. Beneath the surface of the narrative. the cardinal subject of foreigner versus collective is evident from the beginning of the narrative. The incoming train brings three fledglings ; one of them. the Swede. is described as: “One was a rickety and quick-eyed Swede. with a great polishing inexpensive valise ; ” ( Crane ) it is this foreigner who. in declining to conform to the extant societal mores and conditions of Fort Romper. becomes symbolic of the individualist gone excessively far.
As the narrative develops. the sharp reader begins to acknowledge that the characters of the narrative represent a societal microcosm and that the events of the narrative. peculiarly those which arise from the tenseness of the foreigner against the corporate. offer a sociological indictment of kinds. although it is non readily apparent whether Crane intends to stand for the Swede as an epic individualist or a true jeopardy to the well being of the group. The Swede is evidently an unsympathetic. even baleful character. When he begins to play cards with the cowpuncher and the Easterner and Johnnie. he comments: “I suppose there have been a good many work forces killed in this room. ” The other mens’ jaws bead with horror-stricken discourtesy. but this proves to be simply the beginning of the Swede’s jokes.
Subsequently. the Swede continues to move intimidating at dinner “He seemed to hold grown all of a sudden taller ; he gazed. viciously contemptuous. into every face. ” ( Crane ) He so smites Scully’s sore shoulder. insists on another game of cards. and returns to get down a row over an accusal of cheating. Throughout these actions. the Swede is unusually insensitive to his milieus and wholly unconcerned about the public assistance of anyone but himself. The subject of foreigner versus the corporate Begins to make its most tension-filled point.
With the Swede’s accusal against the group. the menace to the group has become touchable and certain. The group responds by slaying the Swede. and the wake of the slaying is the portion of the narrative which demonstrates clearly that Crane’s subject is the danger that the utmost individualist brings to the societal whole. Clearly. he is unsympathetic to the Swede’s destiny. which is viewed as the natural and right response to the Swede’s invasions and menaces.
When the narrative ends. the characters who participated in the slaying are made to recognize that one of their group. Johnnie. had really been rip offing during the card game. that the Swede was right in his accusals. even this realisation fails to bring forth reader-sympathy for the Swede due to his antecedently malevolent portraiture. the majority of which rests upon his arrant devotedness to individuality. a status described as socially unsafe by Stephen Crane in “The Blue Hotel. ”
Crane. Stephen “The Blue Hotel”
Gibson. Donald B. The Fiction of Stephen Crane. Carbondale. IL: Southern Illinois University Press. 1968.