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Importance of Setting in The Blue Hotel

Importance of Setting in Stephen Crane’s The Blue Hotel

In ‘The Blue Hotel,’ Stephen Crane uses various provocative techniques to ensure that the setting adds to the richness of the story. ‘The Blue Hotel’ is set in a cold Nebraska town at the Palace Hotel in the late 1800’s, but there is more to setting than just when and where a story takes place. In a written work, it is the author’s job to vividly depict events in order to keep the reader?s attention and to create colorful mental images of places, objects, or situations. The story is superbly enhanced through Crane?s use of setting to develop mood, to create irony, and to make nature foreshadow or imitate human actions.

From the beginning, Crane creates an atmosphere of violence, eeriness, and uneasiness. He writes, ?The Palace Hotel, then, was always screaming and howling in a way that made the dazzling winter landscape of Nebraska seem only a grey swampish hush.? When Scully, the proprietor of the hotel, greets the Cowboy, the Easterner, and the Swede, the latter is seen as ?shaky and quick-eyed.? He is a suspicious character that acts quite out of place. The first people that the entourage encounters are playing cards. It is Johnnie, who is the son of Scully, and an old farmer with grey and sandy whiskers. The farmer spits tobacco juice into a sawdust box to show his contempt and anger towards Johnnie. Johnnie agitates the farmer to such an extent that the farmer leaves the hotel silently explosive. At this point, a new game of High Five begins. The Cowboy immediately bothers the others with his incessant banging of the cards. The Swede is silent until the game absorbs the other players. He breaks this concentration when he says, ?I suppose there …

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…y stab by the gambler.

Setting is one of the most important facets of a story. It encompasses more than what simply meets the eye. An elementary look into the setting of ?The Blue Hotel? reveals a place and possibly a time for a story to take place. However, a deeper, more critical look exhibits how Crane uses a highly descriptive setting to explain the story rather than relying on character?s thoughts and dialogue. Crane?s profound use of setting enables the reader to easily follow the storyline and, therefore, maximizes the experience of reading his short story. It is little bits and pieces of detail that the reader gradually becomes aware of that make ?The Blue Hotel? a grand work of literature.

Works Cited:

Crane, Stephen. “The Blue Hotel.” Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter Fourth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 1995. 1626-1645.

Narrative Voice in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

The narration of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is actually a compilation of many different voices. The novel shifts between Claudia MacTeer’s first person narrative and an omniscient narrator. At the end of the novel, the omniscient voice and Claudia’s narrative merge, and the reader realizes this is an older Claudia looking back on her childhood (Peach 25). Morrison uses multiple narrators in order to gain greater validity for her story. According to Philip Page, even though the voices are divided, they combine to make a whole, and “this broader perspective also encompasses past and present… as well as the future of the grown-up Claudia” (55).

The first segment of each of the seasonal sections in the novel begins with Claudia’s memories of that season as a young girl. Her first person narration gives a childlike perspective to the story, while the simple sentences echo the primer passages (Bellamy 22): “Our house is old, cold, and green. At night a kerosene lamp lights one large room… Adults do not talk to us – they give us directions” (10). Linda Wagner views the order of details in the novel as one a child would choose (Bellamy 22). For example, while some of the key plot elements in the novel are saved for the end, such as Pecola’s being sexually abused by her father or her slow descent into insanity, other comparatively less important details are given precedent, such as Pecola ministratin’ (menstruating) for the first time or the incident with Maureen Peal. Yet this childlike perspective is not consistent throughout the novel, as Claudia’s perceptions are too often far beyond the capabilities of a child (Bellamy 22). Her opening sentence for “Autumn” is as follows: “Nuns go by quiet as lust, and drunken men with so…

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…n the ironically-named Breedlove family should impregnate his own daughter” (Peach 27) and how Claudia and everyone else were also involved in Pecola’s tragedy. The three narrators, the younger Claudia, the omniscient voice, and the older Claudia, combine to give a view of the past, present, and future within the novel and increase the validity of the story. As Valerie Smith contends, “the narrative process leads to self-knowledge because it forces acceptance and understanding of the past” (Page 55).

Works Cited:

Bellamy, Maria Rice. “These Careful Words . . . Will Talk to Themselves”: Textual Remains and Reader Responsibility in Toni Morrison’s A Mercy. Web 23 May 2015

Morrison, Tony. 1994. The Bluest Eye. New York: Penguin.

Peach, Linden. Toni Morrison. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

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