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"The Blue Hotel" and "The Open Boat"

Stephen Crane's stories "The Blue Hotel" and "The Open Boat" have many similarities. Each story involves a small group of men who are in an isolated situation that is fraught with danger and eventually results in the death of one of the men. But their strongest similarities are their bitterly ironic endings. In both cases the truth that is revealed by the ending counteracts assumptions that had guided the thought of the stories' participants. In "The Blue Hotel," the men assume that they live in a civilized place that is nothing like the imaginings of the crazed Swede. The death of the Swede is seen, accordingly, as purely the result of his own maniacal behavior. Yet, as the coda reveals, everything the Swede feared was true. The men in the open boat question the existence of god and the meaning of life as they struggle to save themselves from drowning. They wonder why they should be taunted by the possibility of living if they were only going to die. This questions the very basis of any possible meaning to life. Yet when they are being rescued life suddenly seems to have redeemed itself and confirmed its meaningfulness. But, in the last moments, its absurdity is reconfirmed.

In "The Blue Hotel" a Swede is one of the visitors who is taken in by Scully, the owner of a hotel in a western town. It quickly becomes apparent that the Swede is subject to "paranoid delusions of persecution" (Weiss 161). He behaves in a nervous manner and remarks to Johnnie Scully, the owner's son, "I suppose there have been a good many men killed in this room" (399). His suspicious attitude and his absolute conviction that he will eventually be killed gradually make it clear to the other characters, including the Easterner and the Cowboy, that he is gripped by popular ideas of the wild, lawless West. As the Easterner says, "this man has been reading dime novels, and he thinks he's right out in the middle of it--the shootin' and stabbin' and...

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"The Blue Hotel" and "The Open Boat". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:25, August 12, 2020, from