The Blue Hotel

by

Stephen Crane

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The Cowboy (Bill) Character Analysis

Though in moments Scully refers to him as Bill, the cowboy is most often referred to by his moniker throughout the text. The cowboy arrives by train to Romper with the Swede and the Easterner. He is on his way to the Dakota state line and appears unassuming until the men take up a game of cards, at which point he begins to whack the board enthusiastically every time he lays down his hand. This disturbs the Easterner and the Swede but pleases the competitive Johnnie. The cowboy is relatively easy-going until the men get in a brawl after the Swede accuses Johnnie of cheating at cards; during the big fight outside in the blizzard, the cowboy surprises himself by urging Johnnie to murder the Swede. The cowboy, however, is unable to accept his own part in the escalation of violence between the Swede and the other hotel guests. At the end of the story, when the Easterner makes the argument that they are all guilty in part for the death of the Swede, the cowboy asks “Well, I didn't do anything, did I?”

The Cowboy (Bill) Quotes in The Blue Hotel

The The Blue Hotel quotes below are all either spoken by The Cowboy (Bill) or refer to The Cowboy (Bill). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of The Blue Hotel published in 1993.
Section 1 Quotes

Scully practically made them prisoners. He was so nimble and merry and kindly that each probably felt it would be the height of brutality to try to escape.

Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

Finally, with a laugh and a wink, he said that some of these Western communities were very dangerous; and after his statement he straightened his legs under the table, tilted his head, and laughed again, loudly. It was plain that the demonstration had no meaning to the others. They looked at him wondering and in silence.

Page Number: 90-91
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 2 Quotes

As the men trooped heavily back into the front room, the two little windows presented views of a turmoiling sea of snow. The huge arms of the wind were making attempts—mighty, circular, futile—to embrace the flakes as they sped. A gatepost like a still man with a blanched face stood aghast amid this profligate fury. In a hearty voice Scully announced the presence of a blizzard.

Related Symbols: The Blizzard
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

The Swede backed rapidly toward a corner of the room. His hands

were out protectingly in front of his chest, but he was making an obvious struggle to control his fright. “Gentlemen,” he quavered, “I suppose I am going to be killed before I can leave this house. I suppose I am going to be killed before I can leave this house!” In his eyes was the dying-swan look. Through the windows could be seen the snow turning blue in the shadow of dusk. The wind tore at the house, and some loose thing beat regularly against the clapboards like a spirit tapping.

Related Symbols: Cards, Blue, The Blizzard
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 4 Quotes

“Well, what do you think makes him act that way?” asked the cowboy.

“Why, he's frightened.” The Easterner knocked his pipe against a rim of the stove. “He’s clear frightened out of his boots.”

“What at?” cried Johnnie and the cowboy together. The Easterner reflected over his answer.
“What at?” cried the others again.

“Oh, I don’t know, but it seems to me this man has been reading dime novels, and he thinks he’s right out in the middle of it—the shootin’ and stabbin’ and all.”

“But,” said the cowboy, deeply scandalized, “this ain’t Wyoming, ner none of them places. This is Nebrasker.”

Related Characters: The Cowboy (Bill) (speaker), The Easterner (Mr. Blanc) (speaker), Johnnie Scully (speaker), Pat Scully, The Swede, The Gambler
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 5 Quotes

Of course the board had been overturned, and now the whole company of cards was scattered over the floor, where the boot of the men trampled the fat and painted kings and queens as they gazed with their silly eyes at the war that was waging above them.

Related Symbols: Cards
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 6 Quotes

No snow was falling, but great whirls and clouds of flakes, swept up from the ground by the frantic winds, were streaming southward with the speed of bullets. The covered land was blue with the sheen of an unearthly satin, and there was no other hue save where, at the low, black railway station—which seemed incredibly distant—one light gleamed like a tiny jewel.

Related Symbols: The Train, Blue, The Blizzard
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 9 Quotes

"Fun or not," said the Easterner, "Johnnie was cheating. I saw him. I know it. I saw him. And I refused to stand up and be a man. I let the Swede fight it out alone. And you—you were simply puffing around the place and wanting to fight. And then old Scully himself! 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 a collaboration. We, five of us, have collaborated in the murder of this Swede. […] that fool of an unfortunate gambler came merely as a culmination, the apex of a human movement, and gets all the punishment.”

The cowboy, injured and rebellious, cried out blindly into this fog of mysterious theory: “Well, I didn't do anythin’, did I?”

Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Cowboy (Bill) Character Timeline in The Blue Hotel

The timeline below shows where the character The Cowboy (Bill) appears in The Blue Hotel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
...from their train. One is a “shaky and quick-eyed Swede,” one is a “tall bronzed cowboy,” and one—the Easterner—is a “silent little man.” So boisterous is Scully in his hospitality as... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Scully directs the men to a basin of frigid water, and while the cowboy and the Easterner readily wash up, the Swede only hesitantly dips his fingers in. When... (full context)
Section 2
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
Johnnie and the old farmer begin playing another game of cards, which the cowboy and the Easterner watch intently. The Swede remains separately by the window, though he seems... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
The men form another game of cards—the cowboy partners with Johnnie, and the Swede is asked to join on the side of the... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
...soon too distracted by the game to take notice of the Swede’s strange behavior. The cowboy is a “board-whacker,” meaning he plays his cards aggressively and frequently slams his fist on... (full context)
Section 4
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Meanwhile, downstairs, the cowboy, span class="inline-character">Johnnie, and the Easterner are speculating on the reasons behind the Swede's strange behavior.... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
...roof. As such, he says, he cannot throw the Swede out of the hotel. The cowboy and the Easterner agree with him. (full context)
Section 5
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
...This game of cards has a different tone than those they played earlier, however. The cowboy is no longer whacking the board, and the others sit mostly in silence. In the... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
...what kind of man” he is. Johnnie “coolly” agrees to continue to the fight. The cowboy asks Scully what he will do, and the proprietor responds with his eyes “glowing,” “We'll... (full context)
Section 6
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
...legs, which appear like “swiftly revolving wheels” in the muddle of bodies. Throughout this, the cowboy is struck by a “war-like” rage, bolts forth “with the speed of a bronco,” and... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
...he should be ashamed of himself. The girls who join her “sniff disdainfully” at the cowboy and the Easterner, who are referred to as “accomplices.” (full context)
Section 7
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
The cowboy proclaims that he would like to fight the Swede, but Scully doesn't let him. He... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
The Swede leaves. As soon as the door to the closes, Scully and the cowboy go into hysterics, talking about all the ways they imagine hurting the Swede. They cry... (full context)
Section 9
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
A few months later, the cowboy and the Easterner meet up near the Dakota state line. The Easterner tells the cowboy... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
The Easterner and the cowboy both feel sorry for the gambler. Yet when the Easterner suggests the Swede wouldn’t have... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
The cowboy balks at the Easterner’s accusation. He shouts, “injured and rebellious ... into this fog of... (full context)