Stephen Crane’s “The Blue Hotel”

Stephen Crane’s “The Blue Hotel” illustrates how we affect the out comes of reality by our preconceived notions of reality itself. Reality in the story was not definite, but it was in the characters minds.

Specifically, the Swede, his view of the situation made the evening go in a direction no one could have predicted. Reality in the end is not as set in stone as we like to think. We create it as we make decisions only the past is set in stone. I also feel the story shows to a slight extent how everyone pays for the decisions they make.

This story emphasizes how even the smallest decisions can change our life if dramatic fashion. What might have happened if the Swede had read Sherlock Holmes instead of cheap western novels? Would he have been calmer? Would he have been in Nebraska at all? In addition the western novels gave him the idea of right and wrong and how things worked in the West. If he had not had the stories of the Wild West floating around in his head he likely would have played a harmless card game and went to bed. Instead he made Johnny angry, got involved in a fight, which eventually lead to his death. In addition the Swede’s awkward mannerisms were largely due to the fact that he was imaging himself in the Wild West when he was really in a small rail station town.

The character I most closely identify with is the easterner. Throughout the story he is largely a bystander and does not get involved any more than he must. In the end he blames himself for the Swede’s death. He did not say anything about Johnny cheating. He just sat back and let the fight happen. These two facts make him feel guilty about the course of events. I think it shows something about human nature. When something bad happens people always start pointing fingers. The people who were nearby often look at what they did as opposed to what they could have done to change things. People always try to blame themselves. The easterner did not kill the Swede, he did not start the fight, and he did not cheat. He only feels guilty because he was in a position to do something and did nothing. I feel we only have to pay for our actions. If someone else gets themselves into a bad spot they can not expect anyone to bail them out. I see no reason why the eastern feels any guilt about the Swede getting himself killed.

I would like to defend his actions here because I feel I would have done the same. When he saw Johnny cheating it did not matter to him. There was no money involved and it was just for fun. Why should he have jumped in to save the Swede, when the card game did not matter? Then when Johnny took offense the accusation why was in the easterners business. If two guys want to fight over a game I think I would just let them. Then later on the easterner did not make the Swede got to the bar nor did he make him drink. As for grabbing the gambler, I think the drinks and the Swedes arrogance are directly to blame for his death. The eastern did not kill the Swede nor was it his job to look after him. The person most directly to blame for the Swede’s death was the Swede.

Johnny did not escape his wrong doings either. He could, however, have helped the situation by remaining clam. Had he just politely chuckled and said ok you got me Swede just having a little fun no harm meant. The characters might have been able to get along with less serious repercussions. Maybe they would have been able to explain to the Swede that the Wild West in his books was gone and he could lived out his life instead of the abrupt end he finds. I feel Johnny paid for his wrong doings, possibly too much. The story makes it seems like Johnny barely survived the fight and was bedridden for some time after. For no more than he did Johnny seems to have paid for his actions.

The gambler takes the harshest punishment for the Swede’s murder, but even his sentence is not too harsh. He gets three years for murder. It was probably viewed as self defense since the Swede was a large man and was clearly intoxicated. I question the gambler’s actions more than the other characters. Could he not have simply cut the Swede’s arm to make him let go. The gambler instantly went for the kill; it is as if he was not thinking when he did this. Had he been more thoughtful he could have avoided jail and the murder of the Swede. He seems to be the least real character, because a man with a wife and two kids generally is not as reckless as the gambler. He did give the Swede a chance to walk away; I just question his use of lethal force. From his description I feel the gambler would have known what he had to lose and not risked killing the Swede until there was no way around it.

One character that we hear little from is the bartender. He serves the Swede a few drinks then watches his quick murder. Should he have kept serving the Swede? Or at some point would it have hurt him to have one drink to calm down a rowdy customer? In the end the cowboy even says, “If the bartender had been any good, he would have gone in and cracked that there Dutchman on the head with a bottle in the beginnin of it and stopped all this here murderin.” Unlike the easterner the bartender did have a certain obligation to the Swede. I would not describe the Swede as a stable character anyway and with a few drinks in him he would be even worse. I think the bartender gets away far too blameless when he could have had a great outcome in the events that unfolded. He seems to be the exception in this story, because the Swede, Johnny, and the gambler all have to pay for their actions directly. The only punishment for the bartender seems to be his longing for a companion after the Swede’s murder.
Use of the term square in this story caught my attention as I reread this story. I noticed that the gambler is described as square by the narrator. Then near the end of the story the Cowboy says, “The Swede might not have been killed if everything had been square”. Earlier in the story the Cowboy also said to the Swede, “Stranger, I don’t see how you come to be so gay around here.” These lines in the story seem to put the Swede and the gambler in different classes. To me this stresses that they are total opposites. I think the term square is a kind of silent theme in the story. To be square in this story implies even or normal. In the end all the characters are square in one way or another. Everyone paid for their actions and ended up square. The Swede dies in the end because he was never square. His view of reality did not work and he paid for the mistake his view lead him to. In the end your view of reality affects you decisions and you have to pay for your decisions.