RoleIt is not surprising for an authors background and surroundings to profoundlyaffect his writing. Having come from a Methodist lineage and living at a timewhen the church was still an influential facet in peoples daily lives,Stephen Crane was deeply instilled with religious dogmas. However, fear ofretribution soon turned to cynicism and criticism of his idealistic parentsGod, “the wrathful Jehovah of the Old Testament”, as he was confrontedwith the harsh realities of war as a journalistic correspondent. Makingextensive 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 “couldnot free himself from” the religious background that haunted his entirelife. His father, a well-respected reverend in New Jersey, advocated Biblereading and preached “the right way.Order now
” Similarly, his mother, who”lived in and for religion,” was influential in Methodist churchaffairs as a speaker and a journalist in her crusade against the vices of hersinful times . This emotional frenzy of revival Methodism had a strong impact onyoung Stephen. Nonetheless, he — falling short of his parents expectationson moral principles and spiritual outlook — chose to reject and defy all thoseabstract religious notions and sought to probe instead into lifes realities. Moreover, Cranes genius as “an observer of psychological and socialreality” was refined after witnessing battle sights during the late 19thcentury.
What he saw was a stark contrast of the peacefulness and moralitypreached in church and this thus led him to religious rebelliousness. As aprisoner to his surroundings, man (a soldier) is physically, emotionally, andpsychologically challenged by natures indifference to humankind. Forinstance, in the story, “what traps the Swede is his fixed idea of hisenvironment,” but in the end, it is the environment itself — comprised ofthe Blue Hotel, Sculley, Johnnie, Cowboy Bill, the Easterner, and the saloongambler — that traps him. To further illustrate how religion permeated intoCranes writing, many scenes from The Blue Hotel can be cited.
Similar to thebiblical Three Wise Men, three individuals out of the East came traveling toPalace Hotel at Fort Romper. The issue explored is the search for identity andthe desire of an outsider (the Swede) to define himself through conflict with asociety. Referring then to the martyr-like Swede, who is convinced that everyoneis against him, the Easterner says “. .
. he thinks hes right in themiddle of hell”. On the contrary, the Blue Hotel can be seen as a church,with its proprietor Patrick Scully who looks “curiously like an oldpriest” and who vows that “a guest under my roof has sacredprivileges”. Personification of a wrathful God is portrayed when the guestsare escorted through the portals of a room that “seemed to be merely aproper temple for an enormous stove.
. . humming with god-like violence”. Additionally, alluding to baptism, the guests then formed part of a “seriesof small ceremonies” by washing themselves in the basins of water.
Tofurther prove the innocence of his building, Scully points out the pictures ofhis little girl on the wall. All in all, in contrast to the safe haven of thehotel, the reality is that “hell” turns out to be the red-lighted townsaloon where the Swede is eventually murdered. Another recurring topic inCranes writing is the responsibility for a mans death. For not acting uponhis knowledge of Johnnies sin (his lying and cheating at the card game), theEasterner is portrayed as a betrayer, with guilt eating him inside. At thebeginning, 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 resultof a collaboration”.
Indeed, in the end, the conspiracy of silence betweenthe 5 men involved in the murder leads to a brutal result: The Swede”losses fear and gains death”. A rhetorical question is left then forthe reader to reflect upon, posed innocently by the Cowboy, “Well, Ididnt 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 andnature. The virtuous religious dogmas cannot always explain and help make senseof the cruel realities that each of us faces. Thus, it is only through trusting”the God of ones inner thoughts” that one can hope to cope withand survive in this brutal world.Religion