Insider vs. Outsider in The Blue Hotel, The Displaced Person, Bernice Bobs her Hair, and Novel In Dubious Battle

Insider vs. Outsider in The Blue Hotel, The Displaced Person, Bernice Bobs her Hair, and Novel In Dubious Battle

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Insider vs. Outsider in The Blue Hotel, The Displaced Person, Bernice Bobs her Hair, and Novel In Dubious Battle


Whenever a stranger enters an unfamiliar society, a clash between the outsider’s practices and society’s guidelines undoubtedly occurs. Whether the resulting conflict minimally or powerfully affects the people involved depends on the situation, but usually the results are monumental. In the short stories “The Blue Hotel,” “The Displaced Person,” and “Bernice Bobs her Hair,” and the novel In Dubious Battle, society’s fear of the stranger has severe negative consequences for the newcomer, as the community’s rules prevail over the outsiders in the end.

A pattern emerges in the four stories, where society’s wariness of the outsider, whether warranted or unwarranted, triggers the rise and fall of the newcomer. The differences that each outsider possesses due to his or her own culture and upbringing, though varying from character to character, mark the source of the clash between the outsider and the community which he or she tries to enter. In “The Blue Hotel,” the Swede separates himself from the group both physically and verbally. His aloofness forces the other characters, who have already familiarized themselves with the small hotel in Nebraska, to suspect that he is dangerous. Their suspicions are indeed warranted, as demonstrated during the first card game of High-Five between Johnnie and the farmer. “The cowboy and the Easterner [watch] the game with interest, while the Swede remain[s] near the window, aloof” (39), displaying immediately that he has no intention of conforming to this society’s rules. After physically withdrawing from the others, the Swede does so verbally shortly after, stating that “th...


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...hange a society that already has fixed practices, and he and the other workers pay the consequences.

As “The Blue Hotel,” “The Displaced Person,” “Bernice Bobs her Hair,” and In Dubious Battle demonstrate, the outsiders in each story, though instilling an initial fear in the eyes of society, experience a sudden and considerable downfall in the end. Each of these defeats, some more extreme than others, result from a clash of society’s fixed guidelines with an outsider’s challenge of these rules. Whether this rebellion against society constitutes a conscious or unconscious effort, and whether the punishment results in justifiable or unjustifiable consequences, one pattern emerges. The outsider instills fear in the mind of the community, and as a defense mechanism, society takes it upon itself to conquer the stranger, leading to his or her ultimate downfall.

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