Stephen Crane Essay, Research Paper
One of Stephen Crane s greatest short fiction stories is The Open Boat by Stephen Crane views fate like it is inevitable, and sure it is. Who can get away from their destiny, their fate? No one can get away from it. This statement is true about the sailors in the boat also. First, their fate starts when their boat capsizes and they have to rescue themselves in to one dinghy, all these men and an injured captain in one small boat. The weather is really bad; there are some big waves on the ocean this day. The waves are so big sometimes that the sky just disappears between the big waves. The rain is pouring down, and the wind blows like a jet engine. They almost cannot hear themselves speaking to one another, so it is more of a shouting conversation. Then in the cold night, a seagull appears to the sailor s sadness. The seagull has its freedom, and it can do as it pleases, but the men are bound to stay in their small dinghy. Then all of a sudden, land is in sight. All the men start to get their hopes up, because they think that they are now going to be saved. They see some people on the beach and try to get their attention, but unfortunately the crowd on the beach could not see the men in the small dinghy. Then a series of huge waves comes tumbling towards the men in the dinghy; it capsizes. Now all the men are in the water, and one pictures them desperately trying to swim ashore. When they all had swum like crazy for a while, every body was saved, except the sailor Billy. He had been struggling the most out of everybody, even though a life jacket past him he still kept on struggling and trying. The odds were against him. Even if he really wanted to reach ashore he could not make it, because his fate was waiting for him. Stephen Crane has written not one but many short fiction stories like this one and as one keeps reading them you get a better understanding of who Stephen Crane really was and where he comes from.
It is not surprising for an author s background and surroundings to profoundly affect his writing. Having come from a Methodist ancestry and living at a time when the church was still an influential aspect in people s daily lives, Stephen Crane was deeply instilled with religious beliefs. However, fear of retribution soon turned to dejection and criticism of his idealistic parents God, “the wrathful Jehovah of the Old Testament” as he was confronted with the harsh realities of war as a journalistic correspondent. Making extensive use of religious metaphors and allusions in The Blue Hotel (1898), Crane thus explores the interlaced themes of the sin and virtue.
“The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane is a classic example of harmony vs. abnormality. To be more specific, the notable theme in Crane’s work is that of the individual vs. society. In this particular story, the main character, the Swede, as mentioned above is the “individual,” while the rest of the guests of the Palace Hotel and the saloon represent the “society.” In a step away from the norm, Crane utilizes the Swede’s individualism not as object for sympathy from the reader, but rather as a display of non-popular foreign ideas and actions. The Swede’s inability to adjust and blend into “society” as a whole brings him a world of troubles, which reach their exciting end in a place that, ironically, was established for the society of the town.
The transformations used in The Blue Hotel reveals some interesting facts about how the dramatic effect is created and how the actual telling of the story is tied to Crane’s philosophic and moral standpoint. He also activates components speaking of violence and war throughout the text. Here I will discuss two equally important themes: colors speak and color as a moral statement. Bright colors represent speaking out or screaming while less vivid ones represent silence or perhaps whispering. The beginning sentences put to use the colors speak metaphor. “The Palace Hotel… is a kind of heron, causing the bird to declare its position against any background”. In this manner he describes the hotel as screaming and howling. Further, he writes that the Palace Hotel [because of its color] makes the dazzling winter landscape of Nebraska seem only a gray swampish hush. The color is a moral statement and is also seen at the beginning of the story where Crane compares color with moral value. Bright colors like the blue of the hotel are daring, and darker colors like brown-red and green are morally strict. He uses color in this sense to contrast the morality of the East and the West. “With this [bright blue] opulence and splendor, these creeds, classes, egotism s, that streamed through Romper on the rails day after day, they had no color in common . The idea of color being a moral statement is particularly conventional among the holy where a color such as bright blue would be considered a sign of narcissism and therefore sinful. Crane describes the outrageous shade of blue and the expressions of shame and pity it provokes among the passengers in the duller colors of the East. Therefore, if color is moral, then the blue color of the hotel is a sign of a worldly free spirit, of moral indifference, and Western independence. The color of the hotel is shocking to passers-by from the East, including the Swede, to whom the striking color is a sign of an immoral and lawless society. Crane employed color for both artistic and moral ends. He created an emotional atmosphere and expressed moral value by doing so. He used blue to remind his characters that they are alienated from, and insignificant in the universe. Red is the color of anger and passion. It signals danger and is dominant inside the hotel. Furthermore, a red light burns outside the saloon where the Swede is eventually killed. The snowflakes are “blood-color” as they pass the path of the lamp’s shining. Also, the Swede has “two spots brightly crimson” on his “deathly pale cheeks” to forewarn us that he is doomed to perish.
In Stephen Crane’s “The Blue Hotel,” the setting of the Palace Hotel parallels the behaviors of the Swede. The hotel is described as: always screaming and howling in a way that made the dazzling winter landscape of Nebraska seem only a gray swampish hush where passengers were overcome at the sight and expressed shame, pity, and honor. The hotel can no more be ignored than the glaring mood swings of the Swede. Crane’s vivid description of the hotel throughout the story and of the Swede creates a bond between the two, which forces the reader to compare a seemingly inanimate object (the hotel) with an animate object (the Swede). Crane’s first description of the foreigner is of “a shaky and quick-eyed Swede, with a great shining valise”. His eyes move slyly around the room and his laughter is ill timed: “It was plain that the demonstration had no meaning to the others. They looked at him wondering and in silence”. Soon, the Swede bursts forth with accusations that there is a conspiracy between Johnny, the cowboy, and the Easterner to kill him: “‘I suppose I am going to be killed before I can leave this house!’ In his eyes was the dying swan look”. Ironically, Crane chooses the next sentence to mention some “loose things” which bang against the clapboard hotel in the wind, suggesting there may be some “loose things” banging around in the Swede’s head as well. As the tension builds between the Swede and the other characters, the Swede’s behavior becomes surly, threatening, and arrogant. Passersby cannot ignore him any more than the blue heron leg color of the hotel s paint. When the Swede accuses Johnny of cheating in a card game, the stage is set for the subsequent tragedies: “Any room can present a tragic front; any room can be comic. This little den was now hideous as a torture chamber”. With these two sentences Crane transforms the peculiarity of the Palace Hotel and the Swede to a universal theme: “Every sin is the result of a collaboration”.
In conclusion, it can be seen that — through the exploration of responsibility, guilt, betrayal, and repentance — Stephen Crane develops the theme that man is alone in a hostile society and nature. The virtuous religious beliefs cannot always explain and help make sense of the cruel realities that each of us faces. Thus, it is only through trusting “the God of [one s] inner thoughts that one can hope to cope with and survive in this brutal world.