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Stephen Crane is a well‑known author of variety of short stories. His short stories anticipate the ironic realism of the decades ahead. In his brief and energetic life, he published fourteen books while acting out, in his personal adventures, the legend of the writer as soldier of fortune. The short story "The Blue Hotel" by Stephen Crane shows how people’s perceptions of things are not always what they really are. Death is an occurring theme throughout the story. The drab, colorless background with "The Blue Hotel" standing awkwardly right in the middle of the snow.
From the moment that the Swede arrived at the Blue Hotel he felt uneasy about staying at the hotel. In his mind he transformed the Blue Hotel into a wild west hotel, from all of the many dime novels he has read. In one of the initial scenes this fear is evident "The Swede answered him swiftly and eagerly: ‘These men are going to kill me.’…. ‘I know I won’t get out of here alive’"(115). The Swede’s fear of dying had made him want to leave the hotel, but Pat Scully, the owner of the Blue Hotel, attempted to get him to stay by giving him a tour of the hotel and showing him pictures of his family. Scully shows the Swede some pictures of his children, "That’s the pitcher of my little girl that died. Her name was Carrie. She had the purtiest hair you ever saw! I was that fond of her, she‑"(117).
Crane’s use of color in the episode helps to point out the pattern of death. Scully and the Swede first walk into a dark room and while Scully speaks of his deceased daughter the Swede focuses on the shadows in the darker part of the room. The Swede fears everything in the hotel, so Scully offers him some whiskey to calm him down, which of course the Swede believes is poisoned. After Skully proves to the Swede that the whiskey is fine the Swede take a drink. The whiskey Skully gives the Swede loosens him up some; the Swede begins to drink more and more. Soon there after he joins a card game, where he proclaims that Johnnie, Scully’s son, has been cheating. The Swede feels that the only way to right the wrongs of Johnnie’s cheating is to fight. Ironically the street is covered in a fine white virgin snow as the spectators chant "Kill him, Johnnie! Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!"(123). In this scene the Swede thought that the gang of spectators would kill him, however, Scully made it so that only he and Johnnie would fight. As with most of the story the Swede was fearful of fighting Johnnie, he feared Johnnie would beat him and he feared that the crowd would kill him. The Swede wins allowing Crane to set up what starts the Swede’s "death march." Having beaten the hotel owner’s son, the Swede decides to leave the hotel. However the Swede, still under the influence of the whiskey, stops at a local saloon where he wants to celebrate his victory. When he finds that no one will celebrate with him he,
Grasped the gambler frenziedly at the throat, and was dragging him from his chair…. then was seen a long blade in the hand of gambler. It shot forward, and a human body, this citadel of virtue, wisdom, power, was pierced as easily as if it had been a melon (128).
The Swedes limp body fell to floor beneath the bar where he had been drinking.
The theme of death in "The Blue Hotel" is present throughout the story. Crane’s use of color, character flaws, and plot help strengthen this theme. Crane uses the Swede’s fear of death in the Wild Wild West to ultimately kill him. Had the Swede not been drinking, he more than likely would not have become so aggressive and in turn he would not have started the fight with the gambler that led to his death. Many people see things not as they really are, they see them through "rose‑colored classes," which the Swede had done. He truly believed the stories he had read about the West and that was
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Stephen Crane, Blue Hotel, Hell on Wheels
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