The Blue Hotel

The Train Symbol Analysis

The Train Symbol Icon

The hotel guests arrive by train to Romper, and the story begins by noting the perceptions of more sophisticated Eastern passengers gazing out the window of the train car—who look upon and judge the blue hotel. This immediately establishes the passengers’ difference from the world of Romper and allows the train to symbolize a link to civilization and rationality.

Early on in the story, there is a threat of the train being held up by the blizzard—a delay that signifies both a literal and a figurative separation from society, safety, and the possibility of escape. Though at points Scully talks about the installation of an electric train in the near future, marking Fort Romper as a soon-to-be “met-ro-po-lis,” the city's distinct separation from this symbol of civilized life is clear, particularly for the most alienated hotel guest, the Swede. The Swede repeatedly threatens to catch another train and leave Romper when he is feeling particularly threatened by the men in the hotel, indicating his desire to return to a more civilized world.

When the men walk outside toward the scene of the violent brawl between the Swede and Johnnie, the only building in sight is notably the train station, which is described as “low” and “incredibly distant.” As the tension, violence, and sense of isolation in the story escalate, the train—and as such, the men’s connection to the rules of society—seems to become harder to reach. In many ways, the Swede's belief that he is in a wild, lawless place is most starkly represented by the distance and inaccessibility of the train; the train becomes both the only literal escape for the Swede, and a symbol of what he believes he has left behind when he chooses to stay in Romper.

The Train Quotes in The Blue Hotel

The The Blue Hotel quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Train. 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:
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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:
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The Train Symbol Timeline in The Blue Hotel

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Train 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
...Romper, Nebraska stands the Palace Hotel, which has been painted an eye-catching light blue. Any train coming through town will have a view of the hotel, which stands out from the... (full context)
Section 3
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
...an electric streetcar that they are planning to run through town, along with a new railroad. (full context)
Section 5
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Vulnerability and Violence Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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... (full context)
Section 6
Fate, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility Theme Icon
Judgment and Deception Theme Icon
...cards against the wall. It is bitterly cold, the landscape blue and barren, with the train station in the distance. The men find a patch of grass protected from the snow... (full context)