The story is largely about the contrast between the real West of the times and the picture that many people had of the so-called Wild West as a result of reading lurid stories in newspapers, magazines, and books. The Swede is terrified (as Crane has the Easterner explain) because he is a newcomer who believes that the West is much more violent, lawless, and dangerous than it really is. The reality is that the West is a very dull and primitive place.
“The Blue Hotel,” is one of Crane’s better-known stories. It explores a situation that was real in frontier days and still real in many areas of life—violence precipitated by affronts to personal honor. Each of the major characters is amply portrayed, and except for the Cowboy they are also rounded. The Swede is guided by expectation, but he changes because he believes that he is above the forces of destruction he earlier fears. Scully is an entrepreneur who values his reputation above all else, but he changes because he consents to the fight of Johnnie with one of his guests. The Easterner is an observer, who does not tell the truth because he seems to have a strain of cowardice; however, he changes because he is the one whose discourse in paragraph 265, indicates a strong sense of guilt about his role in the death of the Swede. The cowboy is bigoted, and is certainly not huge on intelligence, as is indicated by his concluding statement in paragraph 266. He has listened to what the Easterner has told him, but he does not recognize that he has been involved in the death in any way.