In his essay, Robert F. Gleckner discusses progression, as it is related to the structure of “The Blue Hotel.” He follows the progression of power and control in the story, as it shifts to different characters. Gleckner also follows the progression of the storm outside and how it symbolizes a natural force that will always be more powerful than human control.
In the beginning of “The Blue Hotel,” Scully has the power, as he “practically makes [his three guests] prisoners. They are “conducted” into the Blue Hotel. At this time the Swede feels weak and nervous in the unfamiliar territory and scared of “The West.” Scully shows his power over the paranoid Swede by saying, “If anybody has troubled you I will take care of him. This is my house. You are under my roof, and I will not allow any peaceable man to be troubled here.”
As the story progresses, Scully loses control, and the power shifts to the Swede. Gleckner states, “With his final gesture of warm comradeship, the offer of his private whiskey, Scully loses control completely. . .the Swede regains control of himself and will now try to extend it, like Scully, to all men.” When they return to the card game the Swede shows his control subtly by sitting where he wants and getting his own drink. Scully tries to regain his control by talking about the guests “under his roof,” but the Swede continues to exert his power by insisting on another game High-Five. During this next game, control shifts between characters. Gleckner writes, “the cowboy and the Swede whack the board in violent control; Johnnie cheats to control; the Easterner allows the others to control by remaining silent.” During the fight as well, each character tries to gain control, “Scully by refereeing, the cowboy by restraining the Swede, the Easterner by pleading to end the fight, all three of them by cheering.”
As these shifts of control occur, Gleckner analyzes the storm. He writes about how “Crane suggests a greater force imminent, ready to take over at any moment. . .The storm takes over, dashing the cards ‘helplessly’ against the wall, ripping words away from the lips of Scully and the Swede, overshadowing and surrounding the entire fight.” Gleckner believes Crane is showing that even as the human characters fight for control, there will always be a more powerful natural force.
Fear in Crane’s The Blue Hotel
Fear in Crane’s The Blue Hotel
Stephen Crane’s “The Blue Hotel” is, according to Daniel Weiss, “an intensive study of fear.” The story uses a game to show how fear unravels itself. He also discusses inner fears as opposed to fears existing in reality, and the ways that they bring each other about in this short story.
Weiss begins by pointing out how Crane used the stereotypical 1890’s American West as his setting. The Swede comes to the Blues Hotel with the assumption that he will witness, if not be involved in, robberies and murders. The Swede was already experiencing inner fears about the West and when he was invited to join a friendly card game with Johnnie and the other customers of the Blue Hotel, his fears were heightened. When Scully calmed the Swede’s nerves by giving him something to drink, the Swede undergoes a complete transformation and becomes what he considers to be a Westerner. The drinking, according to Weiss, returns the Swede to his original fears, but this time he isn’t afraid, he is “cannibalistic”, devouring his opponents and becoming very aggressive. He began “board-whacking” and eventually accused Johnnie of cheating. Weiss states that the card game was a “benign way for him to work off his aggressions harmlessly.” However when Johnnie started cheating, the reality of crime and gambling set in and “the cheating restore[d] the game to the world of outlaws, professional gamblers, and gunmen.” After the two fought and the Swede was triumphant, the Swede went on to the local saloon where he picked a fight and was killed by a professional gambler. The Swede was experiencing a high on power and liberation when he ordered the other men in the bar to drink with him. When he is stabbed, the Swede returns to his earlier disposition as a victim of the West.
Concerning “fear” in the story, Weiss says that “The Blue Hotel” deals with paranoid delusions. The Swede moves from “wary apprehension” to panic and “passive acceptance of annihilation”, to becoming the aggressor and pursuer, then he regresses to being the pursued once again. He moves through these stages throughout the story and within the framework of the “game.” Weiss writes that in order to avoid being hurt by his “pursuer”, the Swede transforms himself into the pursuer. By moving from a panicked to a manic state, the Swede masters his feelings of self-esteem, alienation, and death.