This essay considers the perspective of James Trammell Cox as presented in his essay: An Analysis of the Blue Hotel Cox begins his essay by discussing naturalism and Crane’s fictional style. He suggests that Crane’s technique “is that of the symbolist rather than the naturalist in that he carefully selects his details not as pieces of evidence in a one-dimensional report on man but as connotatively associated parts of an elaborately contrived symbolic structure.” Basically the thrust of Cox’s argument is centered around the degree to which Crane displays the characteristics of a naturalist writer.
He comments on the intricacy of the story and how well Crane weaves in the details and underlying messages which give the story it’s subtle complexity. Much of Crane’s hidden meaning is achieved through his manipulation of imagery. Cox focuses on this imagery and picks it apart, thus displaying themes that are fairly central to the ideas behind naturalism. One of these ideas that is carried throughout the story behind the façade of imagery is the idea of “man’s inner nature [as] egocentric,” as detailed by the contrast of the house to the storm in which the storm represents the “fundamental conflict between man and his environment.” Within the house, in the central room is the stove, which is referenced frequently and can be seen as man’s inner nature that “burn[s] with elemental aggressions” as the stove is described as “humming with a godlike violence.”
Cox then addresses the idea of natural symbolism and Crane’s use of color to represent feelings and emotions and thus subtly carry them through the story. The two most central colors used are red and white, red as shown through the fire to symbolize anger, and white as shown through the snow to show fear. Cox provides examples of this such as the Swede who throughout the story shows both extremes of emotion and at one point is described, “upon the Swede’s deathly pale cheeks were two spots brightly crimson.
The Swede is a major source of conflict in “The Blue Hotel”. The external conflicts that he faces are caused by implied internal conflicts. The Easterner sums up the cause of the Swede’s internal conflicts when he says, “…this man has been reading dime novels, and he thinks he’s right out in the middle of it-the shootin’ and stabbin’ and all.”(103) The Swede is frightened of everyone because in his mind, he is in constant danger. He is described as “shaky and quick-eyed”(97) in the beginning. Instead of talking to the old farmer, he stares at everyone and makes “furtive estimates of each man in the room.”(98) This internal conflict between the real world and the one in the novels cause the first external conflict between Johnny and the Swede. The Swede is very frightened and believes that everyone is going to kill him. “He shivered and turned white near the corners of his mouth.”(100) The Swede was so frightened that he went upstairs to pack his bags and leave. Scully indirectly caused the changes to the Swede. Scully was trying to calm the Swede down by offering him a drink of whiskey. Once the Swede had the alcohol in him, he became a totally different person. Instead of leaving, he went back downstairs for supper. Johnny describes the change to his father when he says, “…he was scared, but now he’s too fresh.” The alcohol caused the Swede to become loud, arrogant and cocky. This time when an argument breaks out at the card table, he is more than ready to fight. After beating Johnny in a fist fight, the Swede leaves the hotel and goes into town. The new found bravado caused by the alcohol and the fight is what causes the Swede to lose his life to the Gambler. Even though this story was written about the Old West, the theme that alcohol can change people is still very true today.