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Progression and the Structure of The Blue Hotel
In his essay, Robert F. Gleckner discusses progression, as it is related to the structure of "The Blue Hotel." He follows the progression of power and control in the story, as it shifts to different characters. Gleckner also follows the progression of the storm outside and how it symbolizes a natural force that will always be more powerful than human control.
In the beginning of "The Blue Hotel," Scully has the power, as he "practically makes [his three guests] prisoners. They are "conducted" into the Blue Hotel. At this time the Swede feels weak and nervous in the unfamiliar territory and scared of "The West." Scully shows his power over the paranoid Swede by saying, "If anybody has troubled you I will take care of him. This is my house. You are under my roof, and I will not allow any peaceable man to be troubled here."
As the story progresses, Scully loses control, and the power shifts to the Swede. Gleckner states, "With his final gesture of warm comradeship, the offer of his private whiskey, Scully loses control completely. . .the Swede regains control of himself and will now try to extend it, like Scully, to all men." When they return to the card game the Swede shows his control subtly by sitting where he wants and getting his own drink. Scully tries to regain his control by talking about the guests "under his roof," but the Swede continues to exert his power by insisting on another game High-Five. During this next game, control shifts between characters. Gleckner writes, "the cowboy and the Swede whack the board in violent control; Johnnie cheats to control; the Easterner allows the others to control by remaining silent." During the fight as well, each character tries to gain control, "Scully by refereeing, the cowboy by restraining the Swede, the Easterner by pleading to end the fight, all three of them by cheering."
As these shifts of control occur, Gleckner analyzes the storm. He writes about how "Crane suggests a greater force imminent, ready to take over at any moment. . .The storm takes over, dashing the cards 'helplessly' against the wall, ripping words away from the lips of Scully and the Swede, overshadowing and surrounding the entire fight." Gleckner believes Crane is showing that even as the human characters fight for control, there will always be a more powerful natural force.
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The control makes another major shift at the end of the story. Once the Swede makes the friendly gesture of touching the gambler's shoulder, much the same way Scully did to the Swede earlier, the gambler gets control and kills the Swede.
At the end of his essay, Gleckner looks at certain character's control throughout the story. The gambler is punished for taking control and the Swede is killed. Johnnie and Scully are both hurt or "punished" for trying to gain control over the Swede. Even the Easterner exerted personal power by not revealing that Johnnie was actually cheating. Gleckner concludes, however, that "they were all collaborators. . .yet no one of them really actually had complete control at any moment." And the storm, representing natural forces, was always more powerful.