Sin And Virtue

– What Role Does Religion Play In L Essay, Research Paper

Sin & Virtue:What Role Does RELIGION Play In Life? Stephen Crane s The Blue Hotel It is not surprising for an author s background and surroundings toprofoundly affect his writing. Having come from a Methodist lineage andliving at a time when the church was still an influential facet in people sdaily lives, Stephen Crane was deeply instilled with religious dogmas.However, fear of retribution soon turned to cynicism and criticism of hisidealistic parents God, “the wrathful Jehovah of the Old Testament”,as he was confronted with the harsh realities of war as ajournalistic correspondent. Making extensive use of religious metaphors andallusions in The Blue Hotel (1898), Crane thus explores the interlacedthemes of the sin and virtue. Ironically, although “he disbelieved it and hated it,” Crane simply “couldnot free himself from” the religious background that haunted his entirelife. His father, a well-respected reverend in New Jersey,advocated Bible reading and preached “the right way.” Similarly, hismother, who “lived in and for religion,” was influential in Methodistchurch affairs as a speaker and a journalist in her crusade against thevices of her sinful times . This emotional frenzy of revivalMethodism had a strong impact on young Stephen. Nonetheless, he — fallingshort of his parents expectations on moral principles and spiritualoutlook — chose to reject and defy all those abstract religious notionsand sought to probe instead into life s realities. Moreover, Crane s genius as “an observer of psychological and socialreality” was refined after witnessing battle sights during thelate 19th century. What he saw was a stark contrast of the peacefulness andmorality preached in church and this thus led him to religiousrebelliousness. As a prisoner to his surroundings, man (a soldier) isphysically, emotionally, and psychologically challenged by nature sindifference to humankind. For instance, in the story, “what traps theSwede is his fixed idea of his environment,” but in the end, it is theenvironment itself — comprised of the Blue Hotel, Sculley, Johnnie, CowboyBill, the Easterner, and the saloon gambler — that traps him. To further illustrate how religion permeated into Crane s writing, many

scenes from The Blue Hotel can be cited. Similar to the biblical Three WiseMen, three individuals out of the East came traveling toPalace Hotel at Fort Romper. The issue explored is the search for identityand the desire of an outsider (the Swede) to define himself throughconflict with a society. Referring then to the martyr-like Swede, who isconvinced that everyone is against him, the Easterner says “… he thinkshe s right in the middle of hell”. On the contrary, the BlueHotel can be seen as a church, with its proprietor Patrick Scully who looks”curiously like an old priest” and who vows that “a guest under my roof hassacred privileges”. Personification of a wrathful God isportrayed when the guests are escorted through the portals of a room that”seemed to be merely a proper temple for an enormous stove…humming withgod-like violence”. Additionally, alluding to baptism, theguests then formed part of a “series of small ceremonies” by washingthemselves in the basins of water. To further prove theinnocence of his building, Scully points out the pictures of his littlegirl on the wall. All in all, in contrast to the safe haven ofthe hotel, the reality is that “hell” turns out to be the red-lighted townsaloon where the Swede is eventually murdered. Another recurring topic in Crane s writing is the responsibility for aman s death. For not acting upon his knowledge of Johnnie s sin (his lyingand cheating at the card game), the Easterner is portrayed as a betrayer,with guilt eating him inside. At the beginning, no one at the hotel woulddiscuss fear or death with the Swede. Thus, in repentance on his part, theEasterner comments, “Every sin is the result of a collaboration”.Indeed, in the end, the conspiracy of silence between the 5 meninvolved in the murder leads to a brutal result: The Swede “losses fear andgains death”. A rhetorical question is left then for thereader to reflect upon, posed innocently by the Cowboy, “Well, I didn t doanythin , did I?”. In conclusion, it can be seen that — through the exploration ofresponsibility, guilt, betrayal, and repentance — Stephen Crane developsthe theme that man is alone in a hostile society and nature. The virtuousreligious dogmas cannot always explain and help make sense of the cruelrealities that each of us faces. Thus, it is only through trusting “the Godof [one s] inner thoughts” that one can hope to cope with andsurvive in this brutal world.



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