The Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Sometimes in tense situations doing nothing is more harmful than taking a stand. Read this summary of Stephen Crane's 'The Blue Hotel' and analyze its meaning to find out why these characters felt doing nothing was the right thing to do.

See Something, Say Something

Do you think it's better to risk your safety to stand up for what is right or sit back and mind your own business? In an innocent game of cards, this choice of staying silent turns deadly. Let's take a look at a summary of the short story, The Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane, and decide what we would do if put in the same predicament as the characters we are about to meet in Fort Romper, Nebraska.

Chapters I-III

One cold, winter morning, Pat Scully, the proprietor of The Palace Hotel, goes to the train station to recruit people to stay at his uniquely blue hotel. Scully finds three men: a Swede, a cowboy, and a man from the East named Mr. Blanc. The men head to the hotel and meet Scully's son Johnnie. The men gather around the stove to warm, but the Swede says nothing. It's clear this man doesn't fit in. Everyone is curious about his behavior as they watch him laughing alone by the window.

Needing more players for a card game, the men ask the Swede to join. His bizarre behavior is forgotten until the Swede makes a comment to Johnnie about men killed in this room. The men are taken aback, and Johnnie becomes defensive, stating he has no idea what the Swede is talking about. The Swede protests he knows he is going to die before he leaves this house. Scully walks in after hearing the commotion demanding answers from the men regarding the Swede's erratic behavior. Scully assumes Johnnie and company threatened the Swede. However, the Swede admits he's crazy and says he'll leave to avoid death.

Upstairs, the Swede packs his things and offers Scully money for his troubles. Scully refuses the money and offers the Swede whiskey. The Swede laughs and drinks.

Chapters IV-V

Downstairs, the men sit in silence until Johnnie inquires about the Swede's outburst. The Easterner believes the Swede is afraid of the Wild West's reputation. Later, Scully confirms the Easterner's thoughts and says the Swede was nervous about coming to these parts. Johnnie demands his father throw him out, but Scully is determined to make it right.

At supper, the Swede devilishly examines the men as he stabs at the food, and the aggressive behavior continues after supper when the Swede bullies the men into playing cards. During the game, the Swede accuses Johnnie of cheating. With the Swede's fist in Johnnie's face, Johnnie snaps. The Easterner, the cowboy, and Scully hold the men back, but neither will back down. Scully gives in and decides to let them fight.

Chapters VI-VII

The men suit up and head out into the wind and snow. During the fight, Scully works to keep the cowboy in check as he repeatedly yells, Kill him, Johnnie! Johnnie hits the ground, beaten and bloodied, but tells his father he's not done. They continue to fight, but the Swede prevails. Johnnie is carried back to the house.

Back at the house, the Swede appears with his things and again offers Scully money. Scully refuses, and the Swede concedes, stating he should be given something for his troubles. The men are shocked by his attitude. The Swede mocks the cowboy's kill him! and departs into the cold. The men are confused and furious.

Chapter VIII-IX

The Swede battles the weather and walks to a saloon in town. Two businessmen, the DA, and a gambler take attention to the Swede as he describes the fight to the bartender. The Swede is adamant that everyone should drink with him to celebrate. The bartender attempts to shush the Swede, but the Swede ignores him and walks over to the men. He puts his hand on the gambler's shoulder and aggressively asks them to have a drink. When the gambler declines, the Swede grabs the gambler by the throat and drags him to the bar. The gambler responds by stabbing and killing the Swede.

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