The Blue Hotel

by

Stephen Crane

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The Swede is the most mysterious of all the hotel guests, and little is known about his background. In fact, the other characters speculate on whether he is a Swede at all; the cowboy suggests during a discussion with Scully, the Easterner, and Johnnie that the Swede’s accent sounds more like a Dutchman's. The Swede arrives by train to Romper with the Easterner and the cowboy, and is described initially as “quick-eyed” and “shaky.” Paranoid from the start, the Swede seems to constantly size up the other men. He becomes suddenly accusatory during a game of cards, during which he suggests someone has been murdered in the hotel's front room. Later, during a second game, he accuses Johnnie of cheating, causing a fight. The Swede's paranoia extends even to friendly Scully, whom he suspects is trying to poison him when the hotel proprietor offers him a drink of liquor. The Swede’s bizarre, often aggressive behavior unsettles the other guests, and only becomes more dramatic as the story goes on. He is eventually thrown out of the hotel after beating Johnnie in a fight during the blizzard, and seems to have come to his wits end by the time he reaches the town saloon. There, his paranoia comes to fruition–he is stabbed by the gambler in a scuffle the Swede initiates, and his body is left on the floor of the bar. The Swede is treated as the antagonist for the majority of the story, though Crane reveals at the end that his role as the villain may not be as straight-forward as the other characters, and the reader, would like to believe.

The Swede Quotes in The Blue Hotel

The The Blue Hotel quotes below are all either spoken by The Swede or refer to The Swede. 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

The Palace hotel at Fort Romper was painted a light blue, a shade that is on the legs of a kind of heron, causing the bird to declare its position against any background. The Palace Hotel, then, was always screaming and howling in a way that made the dazzling winter landscape of Nebraska seem only a gray swampish hush. It stood alone on the prairie, and when the snow was falling the town two hundred yards away was not visible. But when the traveler alighted at the railway station he was obliged to pass the Palace Hotel before he could come upon the company of low clapboard houses which composed Fort Romper, and it was not to be thought that any traveler could pass the Palace Hotel without looking at it. […] It is true that on clear days, when the great transcontinental expresses, long lines of swaying Pullmans, swept through Fort Romper, passengers were overcome at the sight, and the cult that knows the brown-reds and the subdivisions of the dark greens of the East expressed shame, pity, horror, in a laugh.

Related Characters: Pat Scully, The Swede
Related Symbols: The Train, Blue
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

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 3 Quotes

The Swede laughed wildly. He grabbed the bottle, put it to his mouth; and as his lip curled absurdly around the opening and his throat worked, he kept his glance, burning with hatred, upon the old man's face.

Related Characters: Pat Scully, The Swede, Johnnie Scully
Page Number: 97
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 8 Quotes

He was, in fact, a man so delicate in manner, when among people of fair class, and so judicious in his choice of victims, that in the strictly masculine part of the town's life he had come to be explicitly trusted and admired. People called him a thoroughbred. […] Besides, it was popular that this gambler had a real wife and two real children in a neat cottage in a suburb, where he led an exemplary home life; and when any one even suggested a discrepancy in his character, the crowd immediately vociferated descriptions of this virtuous family circle.

Related Characters: The Swede, The Gambler
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Page Number: 111-112
Explanation and Analysis:

The corpse of the Swede, alone in the saloon, had its eyes fixed upon a

dreadful legend that dwelt atop of the cash-machine: “This registers the

amount of your purchase.”

Related Characters: The Swede, The Gambler
Page Number: 112
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 Blue Hotel PDF

The Swede Character Timeline in The Blue Hotel

The timeline below shows where the character The Swede 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
...three such customers as they disembark 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... (full context)
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...basin of frigid water, and while the cowboy and the Easterner readily wash up, the Swede only hesitantly dips his fingers in. When Scully leaves to direct his daughters’ in their... (full context)
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Later, at dinner, the Swede breaks his silence to ask Scully questions about local agriculture, yet barely seems to listen... (full context)
Section 2
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
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...begin playing another game of cards, which the cowboy and the Easterner watch intently. The Swede remains separately by the window, though he seems intrigued by the beginning of a new... (full context)
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The men form another game of cards—the cowboy partners with Johnnie, and the Swede is asked to join on the side of the Easterner. The Swede is hesitant to... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
...to play and are 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... (full context)
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Despite Johnnie's arguments that the Swede is insane and that nobody has ever died in the Palace Hotel, the Swede insists... (full context)
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The Swede proclaims that he will be killed before he leaves the hotel. He backs himself up... (full context)
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The Swede insists on leaving the hotel because he does not want “to be killed.” Scully tries... (full context)
Section 3
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
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Scully goes upstairs to find the Swede, who is packing his suitcase. The Swede is startled to see Scully's shadow in the... (full context)
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The Swede tries to pay his dues and leave, but Scully refuses to take his money. Instead,... (full context)
Section 4
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
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...downstairs, the cowboy, span class="inline-character">Johnnie, and the Easterner are speculating on the reasons behind the Swede's strange behavior. The cowboy thinks, based on the Swede's accent, that he is actually a... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
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Scully and the Swede come downstairs boisterously, as if they are now friends. The other men are confused by... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
...“too afraid” to stay under his 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
At supper that evening, the Swede is boisterous, aggressive, and dominates the conversation, nearly “breaking out into riotous song.” The other... (full context)
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After supper the Swede insists the men play another game of cards, with a “threat” in his tone. Scully... (full context)
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...to the train station and continues to read his newspaper. Everything seems peaceful until the Swede's voice rings out through the silence. He accuses Johnnie of cheating, transforming the room instantly... (full context)
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The fight ceases for a moment, and Johnnie is able to confront the Swede. The Swede insists that Johnnie is cheating, but that latter insists that he is not.... (full context)
Section 6
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
...men find a patch of grass protected from the snow behind the hotel, and the Swede calls out in the wind that the other men will gang up on him during... (full context)
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...the “iron-nerved master of the ceremony” Scully, Johnnie, who looks “heroic” and “brutish,” and the Swede, who is “pale, motionless, terrible.” All the while the blizzard wails “into the black abyss... (full context)
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
...bolts forth “with the speed of a bronco,” and starts urging Johnnie to murder the Swede, screaming, “Kill him!” Finally, Johnnie falls back in the grass, winded. Scully asks his son... (full context)
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The fight continues. Johnnie dodges the Swede and sends him to the ground as the others cheer. However, the Swede gets back... (full context)
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...he can walk, but Johnnie is more concerned about whether or not he hurt the Swede. The men carry Johnnie back into the hotel and gather around the stove to warm... (full context)
Section 7
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The cowboy proclaims that he would like to fight the Swede, but Scully doesn't let him. He says, with “mournful heroism,” the fight was Johnnie's, and... (full context)
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The Swede leaves. As soon as the door to the closes, Scully and the cowboy go into... (full context)
Section 8
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Outside, the Swede walks through the blizzard into town, following a line of barren trees. The town seems... (full context)
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Finally, the Swede finds a saloon. The light above the door is red and makes the snow “blood-colored.”... (full context)
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The Swede begins to boast about beating Johnnie Scully in a fight at the blue hotel. The... (full context)
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The Swede becomes angry that the other men in the saloon won't drink with him because he... (full context)
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...tell the police that they can find him at his house. The bartender leaves the Swede's body on the floor, and goes out into the storm in order to find help... (full context)
Section 9
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
...The Easterner tells the cowboy that the gambler got a three-year sentence for killing the Swede. The two speculate on why he got such a short sentence, with the Easterner noting... (full context)
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...and the cowboy both feel sorry for the gambler. Yet when the Easterner suggests the Swede wouldn’t have been killed if everything “had been square,” the cowboy becomes enraged, insisting the... (full context)