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Posted on June 16th, 2012, by

Some critics call Stephen Crane’s The Blue Hotel a detailed study of fear. Developing the subject of this story, Crane makes the reader follow different stages of fear and alienation experienced by the main character “a shaky and quickeyed Swede”. We can see almost all possible types of conflicts in the story both internal and external. The fight with fear doesn’t stop in the head of the main character. External conflicts between Swede and Johnny, gambler, man and nature may be regarded as a reflection of Swede’s internal conflict.

Crane’s stories are a perfect example of naturalism, where humans are portrayed as helpless or nearly helpless victims of natural and social forces and The Blue Hotel is not an exception. In this story Swede is controlled in several levels. He is controlled by his cultural stereotypes. He comes to town in Northern Nebraska full of fear for his life because of his strong determination that this part of the country is full of robbers, killers and just violent people.

Fear, Swede was hard to control changed to aggression by the use of alcohol when he wins the fight with Johnnie. In addition all the characters are controlled by the powers of nature, which becomes a symbol of nature’s control over human in general. This control reaches its climax when the flow of the wind spoils the card game. All these elements of naturalism are intended to prove man’s weakness and dependence of the external factors. Crane’s attention to details brings the elements of realism into the story, but still its genre can’t be defined by just naturalism and realism. Many critics find the elements of symbolism in the story. The hotel itself, the card game and even the stove inside the hotel can be regarded as symbols of our inner self, life and fear accordingly. There is one detail which proves us the author has overcome naturalism in this story. Easterner says after the fight Johnnie was cheating. I saw him. I know it. I saw him. And I refused to stand up and be a man” (193). This moves the burden of responsibility from nature and social forces to individual. Easterner becomes partially responsible for the Swede’s death.

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