Religion Role Essay Research Paper It is

Religion Role Essay, Research Paper

It is not surprising for an author?s background and surroundings to profoundly

affect his writing. Having come from a Methodist lineage and living at a time

when the church was still an influential facet in people?s daily lives,

Stephen Crane was deeply instilled with religious dogmas. However, fear of

retribution soon turned to cynicism 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. Ironically,

although "he disbelieved it and hated it," Crane simply "could

not free himself from" the religious background that haunted his entire

life. His father, a well-respected reverend in New Jersey, advocated Bible

reading and preached "the right way." Similarly, his mother, who

"lived in and for religion," was influential in Methodist church

affairs as a speaker and a journalist in her crusade against the vices of her

sinful times . This emotional frenzy of revival Methodism had a strong impact on

young Stephen. Nonetheless, he — falling short of his parents? expectations

on moral principles and spiritual outlook — chose to reject and defy all those

abstract religious notions and sought to probe instead into life?s realities.

Moreover, Crane?s genius as "an observer of psychological and social

reality" was refined after witnessing battle sights during the late 19th

century. What he saw was a stark contrast of the peacefulness and morality

preached in church and this thus led him to religious rebelliousness. As a

prisoner to his surroundings, man (a soldier) is physically, emotionally, and

psychologically challenged by nature?s indifference to humankind. For

instance, in the story, "what traps the Swede is his fixed idea of his

environment," but in the end, it is the environment itself — comprised of

the Blue Hotel, Sculley, Johnnie, Cowboy Bill, 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 Wise Men, three individuals out of the East came traveling to

Palace Hotel at Fort Romper. The issue explored is the search for identity and

the desire of an outsider (the Swede) to define himself through conflict with a

society. Referring then to the martyr-like Swede, who is convinced that everyone

is against him, the Easterner says "… he thinks he?s right in the

middle of hell". On the contrary, the Blue Hotel 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 has sacred

privileges". Personification of a wrathful God is portrayed when the guests

are escorted through the portals of a room that "seemed to be merely a

proper temple for an enormous stove…humming with god-like violence".

Additionally, alluding to baptism, the guests then formed part of a "series

of small ceremonies" by washing themselves in the basins of water. To

further prove the innocence of his building, Scully points out the pictures of

his little girl on the wall. All in all, in contrast to the safe haven of the

hotel, the reality is that "hell" turns out to be the red-lighted town

saloon where the Swede is eventually murdered. Another recurring topic in

Crane?s writing is the responsibility for a man?s death. For not acting upon

his knowledge of Johnnie?s sin (his lying and 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 would discuss fear or death with the Swede. Thus,

in repentance on his part, the Easterner comments, "Every sin is the result

of a collaboration". Indeed, in the end, the conspiracy of silence between

the 5 men involved in the murder leads to a brutal result: The Swede

"losses fear and gains death". A rhetorical question is left then for

the reader to reflect upon, posed innocently by the Cowboy, "Well, I

didn?t do anythin?, did I?". 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 dogmas 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.


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