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Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in "The Blue Hotel"

silverystars 14 / 105  
Jan 26, 2009   #1

I'm trying to prepare in advance for an essay about Stephen Crane's 1898 short story "The Blue Hotel". Here is a quick summary of the story.

Scully, owner of the [. . .] role in the tragedy.

I've only gotten so far in my essay and have realized that I need some help in terms of brainstorming, ideas, etc. Which is complicated, seeing that the subject is a short story that may require a reading or two to better understand its complexities. The full-text version of "The Blue Hotel" is available online here:

etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=CraBlue.sgm&images= images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&p art=all

Anyway, this is what I have written so far:

The Growth and Change of the Swede in Stephen Crane's "The Blue Hotel"

In the epilogue of his short story The Blue Hotel, Stephen Crane poses an interesting moral conclusion. The Easterner, Mr. Blanc, believes that he, along with the cowboy, the hotel proprietor, Pat Scully, his son, Johnnie, and the gambler - the one directly to blame for the murder - each contributed to the Swede's death. Mr. Blanc even goes so far as to state that "every sin is the result of collaboration" (577). While it is true that the reactions from those around the Swede guide him toward his death, it's clear that the Swede is the most accountable of all the contributors. The Swede's perception of his environment, even as it changes and evolves, steers him almost irredeemably toward his demise. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the prediction of being killed causes the events leading up to his death. The Swede's vulnerability, his decision to drink and his resulting sense of false superiority are what ultimately make his death inevitable.

The belief that something bad would happen causes the Swede to act in a strange manner, attracting unwanted attention from the other men at the hotel. He is first noticed by the other men in the hotel when he laughs "childish[ly]" (562) at an old farmer who walks away "with fabulous dignity" from a quarrel with Johnnie over a card game. His curious laughter comes not from anything genuinely humorous, but rather from his own nervousness and fear. Later, the Swede's assertion that many people must have been killed in the hotel compels Johnnie to confront him. Feeling threatened, the Swede attempts to exalts himself: "Oh, maybe you think I have been to nowheres. Maybe you think I'm a tenderfoot?" (563). These rhetorical questions underscore his own amateurishness, and result only in bafflement from the other men. Feeling "formidably menaced" (563), and afraid to withstand confrontation, the Swede becomes dramatic and tries to withdraw, stating, "I will leave this house. I will go 'way because . . . because I do not want to be killed" (564). Rather than resolve the matter, the Swede's instinctive reaction is to flee the scene out of fear. His perceived susceptibility to injury in the hotel, however, is merely the first major step on a path toward his terrible fate.

The Swede eventually has a change in his attitude that is brought to pass by consumption of alcohol. As he is readying to leave the hotel, Pat Scully attempts to calm him down and keep him from leaving by plying him with the contents of a "large yellow-brown whiskey-bottle" (566), which has been kept hidden by Scully. The Swede at first refuses to drink, believing that it is kept hidden because it is poisoned. Once he is convinced that the whiskey is not poisoned and decides to drink, the transition of the Swede's perception is made apparent. As the Swede drinks Scully's whiskey, he keeps "his glance burning with hatred upon the old man's face" (566). Not only is he no longer afraid, the Swede now wishes to make others fearful. The Swede's return downstairs is marked by this newfound aggression as "he talk arrogantly, profanely, angrily" (567) to the other men. He becomes so bold that he accuses Johnnie of cheating in a game of cards, while holding "a huge fist in front of Johnnie's face" (569). Unlike the old farmer, the Swede brings himself ever closer to his own death because he, being under the influence of the whiskey, cannot bring himself to walk away from the game.

The Swede's revised belief that nothing bad could possibly happen causes him to act in a reckless and ultimately self-destructive manner. After defeating Johnnie in a fist fight over the card game, he ridicules the men by "giving one derisive glance backward at the still group" (573), as he leaves the hotel. He then enters a saloon, which, unlike the hotel, is an environment most suitable for acknowledging how vulnerable he truly is. Rather, the Swede feels confident in the thought that he is among men like himself, as he "smil[es] fraternally upon the barkeeper" (574). However, he is met by indifference when bragging to the barkeeper and the four men at a nearby table about having beaten up Johnnie. The four men, among whom is a professional gambler, distance themselves but secretly take notice of the Swede. Such reaction works upon his swelled ego, and causes him to "snarl" and "explode" (576) when the men refuse to drink with him. The Swede, now unafraid and confident in his ability to handle confrontation after his experience at the hotel with Johnnie, tries to attack the gambler. When the gambler stabs him, the Swede's ego and entire existence is mortally deflated. The Swede's resulting "cry of supreme astonishment" (576) highlights his failure to understand what he was bringing upon himself. The thought of being killed did not cross his mind until it was too late. The legend on the cash-machine, "This registers the amount of your purchase" (576), further emphasizes the Swede's purchase of his own doom, and the reality of the situation registers in his mind only as he is dying.

With attention being drawn to the smallest of details, the events unfold in a way that hints at what is to come, but the Swede is thoroughly unaware. The light blue color of the Palace Hotel makes it stand out like "the legs of a kind of heron" (561), a harmless bird, while the red light outside the saloon is "indomitable" (574), or impossible to defeat, and turns the falling snow the color of blood. However, these indicative colors have no influence upon the Swede's actions; the man in the game is blind to what the men looking on clearly see. The Swede fails to realize what he causes to happen as he veers from baseless fear to baseless fearlessness. By believing that something bad would happen, the Swede elicits reactions from the other men that play upon his fears. By choosing to drink, the Swede is affected to the point of beating up Johnnie in a fight over a card game. By believing that nothing bad would happen, he risks his life and loses it in a fight with a gambler. Epiphany comes too late for the Swede. He dies because his limited perception of events cause him to fear for his life in a safe place and to be careless with it in a dangerous place.


Crane, Stephen. "The Blue Hotel." Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Edgar V. Roberts; Henry E. Jacobs. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.

Thanks in advance!
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jan 26, 2009   #2
Well, why don't you continue by stating your reasons for believing that "While the reactions from the other men did guide the Swede toward his death, the Swede's sufficient influence upon them was what made his death inevitable." That would be the obvious way to continue, as you could then treat each reason in its own body paragraph.

Also, trying pulling out a list of key quotations from the story that relate to your topic, then order them in a way that makes sense to you. That is often a good way to create an outline for your essay.
OP silverystars 14 / 105  
Feb 10, 2009   #3
I began free-writing and came up with this as an outline, albeit a rambling outline. Once again I've reached a mental impasse, and am in need of another point of view!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Feb 11, 2009   #4
In other words, the men in the game are blind to what the men looking on clearly see.

The Swede died because his limited perception of events caused him to fear for his life in a safe place and to be careless with it in a dangerous place.

whiskey is spelled like this, with an "e".

Wow, this is great!
OP silverystars 14 / 105  
Feb 11, 2009   #5
In the story Crane spelled whiskey without an "e". Would this call for maintaining the same spelling, or placing a [sic] after it?

Thanks for your help!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Feb 11, 2009   #6
OH!! I'm so sorry!! My mistake, actually it is spelled BOTH ways! This is quite embarrassing!

EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Feb 11, 2009   #7
"Whisky" is the original spelling of the Gaelilc word that gave us the term, but is generally now considered a variant spelling mostly used to describe Scottish and Canadian brands, with "whiskey" otherwise being preferred.
OP silverystars 14 / 105  
Feb 11, 2009   #8
Thanks, Sean, I never knew!

I'll be back sometime soon with a rough draft version of this essay.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Feb 12, 2009   #9
I'm looking forward to reading it. The outline seems promising, as it is very detailed, with a clear focus on a specific and interesting thesis.
OP silverystars 14 / 105  
Feb 13, 2009   #10
This is a rough draft. It's 923 words, though it needs to be at least 1000 words. 77 more words...!
OP silverystars 14 / 105  
Feb 14, 2009   #11
Also, how might you suggest that I can better tie the details from the story back to your thesis directly, without becoming redundant?
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Feb 14, 2009   #12
..."every sin is the result of collaboration" (page number).

Do you need to cite the page numbers in cases like the one above? MLA?

I see lots of quotes, but no page numbers.

After defeating Johnnie in a fist fight, the Swede ridicules the men by "giving one derisive glance backward at the still group," as he leaves the hotel.

The Swede brags to the men at the saloon about having beaten up Johnnie...

the unfolding of events allows foreseeability of what is to come...

Above, that is awkward... if you claim that they make the events foreseeable, I guess you should maybe use the word "foreshadow?" It's up to you... I kind of like your way, even though it is awkward. I'm not sure...

the events unfold in a way that hints at what is to come, but the Swede is caught unaware.

I don't know...

This is looking good. A couple things, like when you wrote "laughs "childish[ly]" made me think maybe you had copied this from somewhere, because most people don't know how to use brackets like that. But I don't think you copied, because I searched for this material and didn't find it via google. But I mentioned it because maybe your teacher will think that... also because the essay is so good that I thought maybe it was written by a professional! So, congratulations. :)

About tying the examples to the thesis, all it takes is to explain the significance of each example in such a way as to show that your thesis is correct. It's as if you are trying to persuade the reader that your thesis is correct. So, each time you gie an example from the story, present it as support to show that the thesis is correct. It's simple! :)
OP silverystars 14 / 105  
Feb 15, 2009   #13
Thanks for your help, Kevin! No, no copying. I just hope that my teacher understands that I have sweet bracketing skills. I went to work with what you suggested and came up with this. It is 1,123 words.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Feb 15, 2009   #14
Wow, this is awesome!! Great job with it, and good luck in school!!

OP silverystars 14 / 105  
Feb 18, 2009   #15
I thought I would go ahead and post some of the criticism I've received so far on this.

1. Some parts are a little confusing. You use "the Swede" too much; you should use mostly pronouns to refer to him.

I want to be sure that it is clear who I am talking about, but I don't want to hit people over the head with it, either. What is a good rule of thumb regarding this?

2. You need to include more personal input so that the idea seems more like yours.

It seems hard to strike this kind of balance in this type of essay.

3. Why are you retelling the story? Make your points more overt.

This one seems most critical of all, I feel. I'm not sure of the best way to go about making my "points more overt". Any suggestions?

Thanks again for your assistance!
OP silverystars 14 / 105  
Feb 22, 2009   #16
I finally decided to edit the essay based on the above criticisms I received. I have decided that this will be the final version!
OP silverystars 14 / 105  
Mar 9, 2009   #17
Follow-up: I would have received an A were it not for an error in formatting. Final grade: B. Any thoughts?
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Mar 9, 2009   #18
Well, if you would have received an A, the essay was obviously pretty good. Just make a note of your formatting error so you don't make the same mistake again!
OP silverystars 14 / 105  
Mar 10, 2009   #19
I most certainly will! Thanks again for the help that you provide . Now onto researching "The Glass Menagerie"...

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