What is the relation between The Blue Hotel and nature? Given that this work is of the naturalist genre, the idea of nature as uncaring of humanity or even a foe of the characters is possible. However, where exactly does nature itself come into play?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think the “nature” in the story is human nature, the kind of collective psychology that marks out the Swede as “different” and ostracizes him. The Swede, an easterner, has clearly heard a lot of stories about the Wild West and views everything about Fort Romper as potentially dangerous. In a sense, the grayness of Nebraska is an ironic contrast to the lurid ideas of frontier violence that the Swede has been nurturing, and the blue hotel, which always looked “loud and screaming” in contrast, is a kind of visual counterpart to the Swede’s fears. It is consistent, then, for the Swede to begin by speculating on how many men have been killed in the hotel; for him, the hotel has been the scene of many gunfights, while for Scully, the owner, the attempt to make the hotel stand out is simply good business.

The point of the story is to show that the motivations of the other characters are not that different from the Swede’s. Perhaps the only thing that makes the Swede different is his willingness to speak openly about the threat of violence. Crane suggests that the possibility of violence is always in the minds of all the characters, especially when they deny thinking about it. When it comes out at the end of the story that Johnnie really has been cheating and that the Swede was in part justified in accusing him, we realize that the motivations of all the characters have not been what we imagined them to be. The polite social relations which the Swede seems to flaunt never really were important; when the Swede exclaims at the beginning of the story that “I suppose I am going to be killed before I can leave this house!” he is effectively predicting his own fate.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When "The Blue Hotel" by Stephen Crane is described as a "naturalistic" story, the sense of nature isn't quite what we mean when we talk about "nature" as wilderness. Instead, it can mean human nature or natural law. In particular, it implies that people act according to their natures, and that their behaviors and fates are determined as much by their upbringings as by conscious decisions or free will. 

The Swede begins by being frightened of the dangers of isolated western communities such as the small Nebraska town in which the story is set. He has a sense that people in such in close-knit community will stick together and prey on outsiders. What makes this a "naturalistic" store is not only its realistic setting with characters at the margins of society, but the sense that the Swede's nervousness and fear of being bilked in the game lead him to act oddly, drink too much, and eventually become aggressive with the gambler, causing the gambler to kill him. His attempts to escape the fate he fears, as in many naturalistic works, is in fact what leads to the very fate he tries to avoid. Thus the main sense of "natural law" here is the sense that one cannot struggle against the inevitable. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial