The American Short Story “The Blue Hotel” By: Stephen Crane
Stephen Crane (1871-1900) • American journalist, poet, and author • He wrote: • Maggie, a Girl of the Streets: a Story of New York (1893) • The Red Badge of Courage: an episode of the American Civil War (1895) • "The Black Riders and Other Lines" (1895), "The Little Regiment" (1896), "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" (1897), The Third Violet (1897), "The Blue Hotel"(1898), "War Is Kind" (1899), The Monster and Other Stories (1899), Active Service (1899), and "The Open Boat" (1898) • At the age of 28, Stephen Crane died on June 5, 1900.
Literary Naturalism 4 Main characteristics: • Pessimism (Main characteristic): a character tends to repeat a phrase having a pessimistic outlook, which sometimes emphasizes the inevitability and quality of death. • Detachment of the narrator (Objective tone): Story often introduces nameless characters and focuses mainly on the plot and setting rather than focusing on the characters’ emotions. • Determinism: Story focuses on fate or nature and is the opposite of the belief of free will. The fate of the character has already been predetermined by certain factors, most often environmental factors, and he can do nothing to change it. • Surprising Plot Twist: Natural forces create a surprising situation for a character, which he is unable to escape. (Futility of struggle) • In general, there is a strong sense in the naturalist stories and novels that nature is not affected by human struggle.
“A Man said to the Universe”By: Stephen Crane A man said to the universe: "Sir I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation." • How does this apply the principles of Naturalism?
Review Questions • Which three men does Pat Scully entice from the train station to stay in the blue hotel? • What does Pat Scully pull from beneath his bed to entice the Swede to remain at the blue hotel? • Who kills the Swede? • What is the setting of the story? Be specific with the environment and what state. • Which character tells us that he feels regret for the Swede’s death at the end of the story?
Naturalism • The term naturalism describes a type of literature that attempts to apply scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to its study of human beings. • Unlike realism, which focuses on literary technique, naturalism implies a philosophical position: • For naturalistic writers, since human beings are, in Emile Zola's phrase, "human beasts," characters can be studied through their relationships to their surroundings.
Literary Naturalism • A literary movement which flourished in America from1890 to 1910. • A literary movement began in 19th century France. • A literary movement portraying humans as powerless or helpless victims of natural and social forces. • Famous American Naturalist Authors: • Stephen Crane • Jack London • Theodore Dreiser • Frank Norris
“The Blue Hotel” • Themes: • Naturalism • Control by nature • Control by social environment (Community) • Control by chemicals and our own bodies • Control by inner nature • Does Man have “ANY” control over their destiny? • Discrimination/ stereotypes
“A Man said to the Universe”By: Stephen Crane A man said to the universe: "Sir I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation." • How does this apply to “The Blue Hotel”?
Discussion Questions • What role does the setting or nature play in the story? • "We picture the world as thick with conquering and elate humanity, but here, with the bugles of the tempest pealing, it was hard to imagine a peopled earth. One viewed the existence of man then as a marvel, and conceded a glamour of wonder to these lice which were caused to cling to a whirling, fire-smitten, ice-locked, disease-stricken, space-lost bulb” (58). • Are the characters well-developed? Are they more like types? Explain your response.
Discussion Questions • What does Crane imply when he writes: • “There was a great tumult, and then was seen a long blade in the hand of the gambler. It shot forward, and a human body, this citadel of virtue, wisdom, power, was pierced as easily as if it had been a melon. The Swede fell with a cry of supreme astonishment” (62). • How might one interpret the ending of the story? • “We are all in it! This poor gambler isn’t even a noun. He is kind of an adverb. Every sin is the result of collaboration” (64).
Debate Group 1: How might the ending be seen as in direct contrast to naturalism? Group 2: How might one argue that the ending still maintains the characteristics of literary naturalism?