Stephen Cranes Philosophy in his novel "The Blue Hotel"

tanding in the swirling snow storm of a small western town Fort Romper, Stephan Crane��s blue Palace Hotel tells a tragic story of alienation and its dangerous consequences to the individual who feels estranged from the surrounding group. In the story, an odd-behaving Swede who fears an uncivilized, lawless Wild West is guided to the blue hotel by the proprietor Pat Scully. Along with him, there are two other strangers, a cowboy and an Eastern. The Swede is totally grabbed by his irrational fear of the western community probably as soon as he steps out of the train. Thus, he never finds his place and the appropriate way to behave in this small town. He first offences all the people in the hotel by groundlessly accusing them of planning to kill him and then directly exposes Johnnie��s cheating in the card game, which is in fact tacitly acceptable in this town, where even a professional gambler can be viewed as a generous, square family man. So, the cultural difference leads to a fight between Johnnie and the Swede.  After winning the fight, the Swede enters an antagonistic and boastful mood. So, after leaving the hotel, he dares to violently force the gambler in the saloon to drink with him and is finally killed because of this rash behavior. By simply telling the unfortunate destiny of the Swede, Stephan Crane actually reveals a self-fulfilling prophecy tragedy, the weakness of human��s moral nature, and the great power the surrounding environment has on people. The blue hotel is not only a hotel in the story; it actually refers to the natural and social environments we live in.

        When coming to the death of the Swede, he himself is clearly the first to blame. He is profoundly trapped in his misconception of what Wild West is like: a lawless western settlement full of trigger-happy gunmen. However, actually the truth is not like that. The proprietor Pat Scully treats them benevolently with great courtesy, letting his son carry their luggage, bodily conducting them cold water, and even handling them towels from one to other. To ease the Swede��s extreme fear and uneasiness of the west, he also talked about the up- coming electric street-cars, new railroad, churches, brick school-house and new factory. Both the old Scully��s politeness and those modern utilities suggest that the small town Fort Romper is not an uncivilized area. But the Swede would rather believe in what he reads in the dime novels.  In contrast, the Eastern who also comes from the East, and therefore has every reason to hold some kinds of prejudice about the West, can tell that there is indeed nothing specifically dangerous in the so-called Wild West now. The Swede��s misconception leads him to great emotional instability and odd behaviors. At first, he is discourteous to his host Scully by fearfully announcing that many people have died in the hotel. Then, when the fear is eased, he boisterously dominates the evening meal, displays terrible table manners, glares wolfishly at his host, and maintains a threatening tone when he speaks. He tends to overact to every unimportant happening with unhappy result and simply keep drawing unfavorable attention, and finally expels himself out of the hotel in this way. Later, his even more inappropriate acts in the saloon, like boasting about his winning in the fight, demanding the gambler to drink with him, all pushes him to the tragic end, death. This is clearly a message of self-fulfilling prophecy. If the Swede was not so dogmatic about what was going to happen, and so obnoxious to all, he probably won��t have come to the end that he does.

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        But is that to say, the Swede is the only one who is responsible for his death? Not at all. Just like the Eastern indicates, everybody in the hotel is in it. ��Every sin is a result of collaboration (Crane, 577).�� The gambler is just the one that commits the final, fatal stab at the apex of the story; others, however, all directly or indirectly push the tragedy, or at least do hardly anything to stop it. Among them, Johnnie, who cheats in the card game, probably plays the biggest part. One can easily tell from the former quarrel between Johnnie and the old farmer that he does cheat when playing cards. However, he totally denies it and tries to prove his ��innocence�� by fighting with the Swede. This probably deepens the Swede��s hostile and aggressive feelings towards westerners. The Swede��s winning the fight makes things even worse. It adds unrivalled complacency and self-righteousness to his antagonism. Therefore, he is more likely to use violence. His boasting of his winning in the fight and violently ordering the gambler to drink with him, which later causes his death, is a distinct evidence.  

The cowboy, who always stands together with Johnnie, acts as an accomplice by defending and urging Johnnie to fight for no other reasons, simply because he doesn��t like the Swede and wants to see a fight. Johnnie��s father, Pat Scully, seems have nothing to do with the tragedy. After all, he tries to comfort the Swede many times. But is it true? When his son argues with the Swede about cheating, he acts without judgment, encourages and even hosts the fight that finally drives the Swede away from the hotel to the fatal saloon. As the person who is most likely to calm the Swede, he gives up the responsibility and lets his customer go on the way of self-destructive. Another noteworthy role is the Eastern. He actually witnesses the whole cheating process; but just as he says, he refuses to ��stand up and be a man (Crane, 577).�� He absolutely disapproves the cheating but lacks the courage to offence a local in this rough frontier town. So, it is the Swede��s own paranoid, Johnnie��s dishonesty, cowboy��s recklessness and Pat Scully��s irresponsibility that forms a hostile social environment and kill the Swede collaboratively. Thus, the five men��s weakness in moral nature and its effect on other��s destiny is totally revealed by the Swede��s tragedy.

        However, people are not the only reason. The natural environment also plays a part. Crane indicates that ��one viewed the existence of man then as marvel, and conceded a glamour of wonder to those lice which were caused to cling to a whirling, fire �Csmitten, ice-locked, disease-stricken, space �Clost bulb (Crane, 574).�� The quote states that compared with nature, human are actually as small and insignificant as lice seem to us. Whatever nature imposes to us, fire, ice or diseases, we can only bear and adjust to it. There is no way that men can change or get control of it, just like lice can never control what men will do to them. All men��s action and destiny is determined, or at least deeply influenced, by this ultimate ruler. In the story, the terrible weather stands for this great power. After entering the hotel, the Swede feels panic and anxiety, and actually wants to leave. It is the frantic wind, the whirling flakes and the turmoiling sea of snow that keep him inside because ��No island of the sea could be exempt in the degree of this little room with its humming stove (Crane, 571).�� The harsh environment forces everybody to stay inside the room. The howling wind seems to imply the antagonism and the up-coming violence between the men. Naturally, people inside start playing cards since it is the only entertainment available to kill time in this terrible weather. The Swede has no other choice but to join. Then the game leads to the quarrel, and quarrel results in the fight. This is perhaps how the tragedy begins. Later, after the Swede leaves the hotel, it is also the weather that forces him to find another shelter from the snow. Therefore, he is led to the saloon where he fights with the gambler and stabbed to death.

        All in all, Stephan Crane uses this tragic story to uncover his naturalistic philosophy: a man himself has actually little control of his life. He is only part of it. The others, the surrounding environments, human��s inner nature, or even a small incident like a quarrel can have large influence on one��s destiny. Things happen in the blue hotel are actually happening all around us every day. Everyone is directly or indirectly responsible for what happens to people surround you.


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