The Blue Hotel

The Blue Hotel Section 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At supper that evening, the Swede is boisterous, aggressive, and dominates the conversation, nearly “breaking out into riotous song.” The other men respond simply or not at all to his statements and try to keep out of his way, as do Scully’s “daughters” who flee the room with “ill-concealed trepidation.” Scully encourages the Swede, remaining calm even as the Swede slaps him on his bad shoulder. Johnnie is concerned that Scully is letting the Swede walk all over him, but Scully responds by “scowling darkly” at his son's judgements.
The Swede’s alienation continues to build, as does the ill-fated tension between him and Johnnie. The daughters’ concern contrasts with the men’s inability to admit vulnerability. The tension created by the Swede even begins to break bonds between Scully and Johnnie, who, as father and son, were formerly the most tightly-knit of the group.
Themes
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
After supper the Swede insists the men play another game of cards, with a “threat” in his tone. Scully refuses to play because he plans to meet the 6:58 p.m. train at the station, but Johnnie grins menacingly and agrees to play the Swede. 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 middle of their game, when Scully leaves to go to the station, a gust of wind comes in from the blizzard and scatters the cards across the floor. The wind “chills the players to the marrow,” and after the cards are returned to the board, the Swede becomes the board-whacker.
The Swede is transformed in this scene from the fearful guest into a violent and aggressive figure. This is likely because he no longer feels a need to conceal his feelings, as he has resigned himself to his impending death. The Swede's aggression comes at a cost—the other characters are so alienated from him they no longer respond to his behavior, and instead sit in silence. The wind scattering the cards symbolizes the building chaos and violence that will soon strike.
Themes
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
Scully returns from his trip 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 into “a torture chamber.” Johnnie looks into the Swede's menacing eyes. The other men gasp and stand up. Suddenly, a fight breaks out over the card table. All the men are pushing and shoving each other and only fragments of speech are caught. The men stomp on the cards, which have been scattered on the floor, as they fight, the “fat and painted kings and queens” looking wonderingly at the “war” above them. Scully tries to shout to stop the fight, while the Easterner questions “What's the good of a fight over a game of cards?”
The violence that has been building over the course of the story finally comes to a head. The men ultimately fight over cheating at cards, which symbolize the interplay of fate and chance; as such, this fight suggests larger questions about what control—if any—the men have over their own destinies. That the cards have been scattered suggests that either their fate is out of their hands, or that they have willingly abandoned trying to maintain rational order and instead have succumbed to chaos.
Themes
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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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. The Easterner begs the men to think about the rationality of their behavior by repeating that there is little using in fighting over a game of cards. Nevertheless, the Swede, “like a demoniac,” continues to shout that Johnnie cheated and that he will “show [Johnnie] 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 let them fight.”
Though the Easterner attempts to be a voice of rationality, he only asks questions he knows the other men won't answer rather than actually stepping in and taking action. The decision of the men to continue the fight suggests, somewhat ironically, an active acceptance of chaos and violence in lieu of control. Scully embraces his role as facilitator of this fight, no longer hiding behind his eagerness and hospitality.
Themes
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
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