'Welcome to the Hotel California, 'such a lovely place such a lovely place'. One can't resist the haunting symbolism nor the alluring melody of Hotel California. The song has become a legend in its own right. One may not remember the names of the band members nor the singer, but Hotel California is an entry in the dictionary of the mind. But a bigger question emerges; can the song be analyzed as structurally? Yes it can. The structural analysis of the song can be done using the three modes written down by Roland Barthes: they are:
a) Narrative itself
The lowest of the hierarchy is functions. Functions are broken down into two categories: Distributive Functions and Index functions. Distributive functions are the common happening things within the narrative, and index functions are the qualities of the character. Narrative itself refers to the contextual discourse that the narrative takes when a reader makes suitable response to the narrative based on how, functions and actions are integrated within the narrative. Narrative itself, posits itself, as writing space between the reader and the narrator.
The narrative seeks to dissect the narrative Content of Hotel California structurally.
Distributive functions are the situational events in which the characters are placed.
The unnamed character (first person)is on the dark desert highway with cool wind on his hair He experiences warm smell of colitas rising up though the air. Then all of a sudden, he experiences heaviness in his head and dimness in his sight and out of nowhere in a place called desert, pops up a lady who is also unnamed. And in the no man's land called desert he hears a mission bell. And he imagines like a mad man that he is in Heaven or Hell. Then again, the unnamed lady out of the milk of human kindness, lights up a candle and shows him the way to Hotel California. As the unnamed man walks down the corridor of Hotel California, he hears voices and he thinks phantasmagorificaly that they are speaking to him. They are speaking from a place where there is no hotel, and yet welcoming the man by suggesting that Hotel California is a lovely place, that it has plenty of rooms and that he can check into it any time of the year. Inside Hotel California, the man observes the lady and makes reflections about her. Her mind is tiffany (pun on epiphany) twisted, and she has got a Mercedes Benz and lot of pretty boys called friends. They dance in the courtyard as sweet summer sweat with some dancing to remember and others to forget. In the first person dialogue the man calls the 'captain' to bring his wine. The 'captain' replies that the Spirit of Wine is dead since 1969. Then again the character hears voices calling him from far away and imagines that they will wake him up in the middle of the night to say: Hotel California is a welcome place and there are nice surprises, so it is essential to bring alibis. The man sees mirrors on the ceiling and pink champagne on ice. Then the lady tells the man that all are prisoners here of their own device. The man sees a ritual. In themaster's chambers they have gathered for the feast; they stab it with their steely knifes but they just can't kill the beast. The man gets scared and starts running for the door where he finds a 'night watch man' who asks him to relax and who also reiterates that once you have checked into Hotel California, checking out is impossible.
The index functions refer to character.
a) Character of the Unnamed Man
The character's identity as an unnamed one shifts from one pronoun to another. In lyrical vein of jest, the character can be termed as a flowery knight (a hybrid of medival chivalry and the Seventies of floweriness)who has been transplanted on to a fictional gothic -desert. He is in a state of natural séance as he enjoys the cool winds of the desert and warm colitas(marijuana smoke) . He becomes swamped by dizzy dreamy spells, and out of nowhere, a charming maiden quite akin to medieval folk lore emerges. It was then that the character hears the mission bell. Mission bell is again curiously connotative as intentional slyness. Is it the church bell which is rung for the occasion or its reverse, the bell ringing for the nocturnal ritual loving Mephistopheles? The unnamed man of Hotel California temporolizes transcendental subjectivity of universal space into an ethical dichotomy of Heaven or Hell. It could be both to him, as a split mind reined in on creation and monotheistic myths.The maiden-angel-whore-mother- goddess archetype of a stereotyped woman lights a candle and shows him the way through a door. Is he doped by the colita smoke that he is unable to take a decision and he hears in mesmerized -delirium, voices welcoming him to Hotel California and the so called voices sweetly serenade him that he is free to check in any time of the year.The unnamed character portrays her as a goddess-getable, a goddess, whore, Madonna who is easily lured by the wealth and materialism offered by rich friends seeking her carnally. The man observes how they dance in the courtyard with summer sweat. The colita -smoked man, summons the captain to have a drink but is reminded that it is out of vogue. The sybarite is forced to consciously understand that the zeitgeist of the ages has witnessed transition from alcohol to soft and hard narcotics. Is he addicted and doped? Again, mystery voices entice and welcome him to Hotel California. Are voices the spoken honey and concealed in the tongue of the deadly? The character sees mirrors on the ceiling and pink champagne on ice. Is he seeing the effect of drugs working on him? He is warned by the seductive enchanting lady that all are prisoners in Hotel California and it is the work of their own doing. He observes a ritual in the master's chambers as the stabbing with the steely knife, a beast which in turn does not die. He becomes conscious that there is no escape from the drug induced rituals. Who is the master? Is he the Drug User? Is he Satan or he/she the Beast? Who's is the beast that does not die? Is it the addiction? As the character tries to escape he is reminded by the night watchman that one can never leave Hotel California.
b) The Character of the Lady
The lady is stereotyped as a medival enchantress, a Madonna, a whore who again like a mythological courtesan leads our existential weary traveler into a Hotel California. She becomes very suggestive as to her method of leading the weary person, just like a person being led into the brothel. She is given manifestation as a whore when she is described with her prized possessions, a Benz and pretty boys she has as friends. The narrative becomes cloudy as to the motives of her decision to lead him to Hotel California. He is not rich nor does have spoilt wealth. Then why does she lead him? Towards the last part of the song she reminds the world weary traveler that once inside the den of addiction -Hotel California, the exit is closed.
c) The Character of the Captain
The name Captain is used rather anachronistically or in satiric mode. One can probe it with forceps by asking whose Captain or who is the Captain? Yes, since the Captain proclaims affirmatively that the spirit of alcohol has received its execution since 1969; he is the one Captain of a kind that mixes drugs in the right potency, a Captain who captains drugs. He is the drugged Captain captaining druggie disciples. What a Captain, Oh Captain are you?
d) The Character of the Master
Who is the Master? Is he an allusion to SATANISM and the leader of the Satanic Church of California? What do the Beelzebub's do in the chambers. The stab a beast with steely knifes and yet they are not able to kill him. This is the most symbolic of the verses with the beast having a double connotation of drugs as well as being unable to kick the drug habit. At a meta -level, the connotation of this verse shifts to mythological world of demons and dark forces who possess absolute control of suggestion and possession. Again this mytho-poetic irrational confessionalism is based on belief that there is Universe championed by a God who is montheistic and who lend an angel of Music to rein the seduction of his own castoutness as making man/woman as rebellious as him/her or s/he
e) The Character of the Night watchman
The Night Watchman appears to be calm and unfazed by the character's attempt to make last minute escape out of California. He smiles innocently says the word: 'relax' to the character that opts to go out of Hotel California and also reminds him sweetly there is no way out. Is the night watch man disguised as a grim reaper? He is the mostround character and becomes a subtle grim reaper who shows charmwhichrathera veil for absolutism. He does exhibit Michaevellian characterstics.
The actions in Hotel California can be broken down into the following. They are:
d) Attempt to Escape
The firstaction is the deserted traveler. Does he choose to be deserted on purpose is not answered by the song. He seems to enjoy the cool wind and the fumes of marijuana smoke(colitas). His condition of being stranded becomes ambiguously connoted. He could be addicted and enjoying his journey in the stranded desert.
The second is his entry into Hotel California made with the help of the whore, concubine, angel and Madonna of a mother figure, a complexity of a stereotype woman whom the seventies woman would have rubbed under her feet as identity- less of the ages. She provides him a candle light and leads him into the metaphoric allusional place Hotel California. Hotel California is an eponymous allusion.It is an irony that the seventies Woman was trying to free herself from all feminine archetypes as well as earlier forms male disguised feminist chauvinism in the sense being just like/as men.
The third is his initiation where he is reminded by a host of phantoms that he is welcome to the Hotel California and he is free to stay there as long as he likes. He wants to drink but is rejected by the Captain who says there is the spirit of drugs only here. He witnesses the bestial ceremony where people addict themselves with dope in a ritual metaphor of stabbing the beast and yet are unable to kill the big beast of addiction.
The fourth is an attempt to escape out of Hotel California.
The fifth is the response made by the night watchman that he cannot escape Hotel California once he has joined it.
Barthes defines 'narrative itself 'as the way in which the narrators posit themselves to a reader.The main narrators are: the first person narrator who is invited to Hotel California, the lady who narrates very little and the night watchman who sends the traveler back into the confinement of Hotel California.
The first person narrator is like a not-knowing-weary traveler. He is the quintessence of the knight of medieval lore and flower generation. He has neither wit nor irony but is entirely self absorbed. Everything thing on the way happens to him fictionally as things falling into place, like the cool wind of the desert, the warm smell of colitas, the meeting of the woman out of no where. May be he is remarkable as an archetype of 70's who is manifested with earlier stereotypical qualities of myths. He does not offer a fight to circumstances to surrounding him especially his experiences at Hotel California. He communicates a narcissistic renegadeism of an experimental generation who thought every thing they lived for is something of a halo or holy as an essence. He is not even fascinated with the woman who has led him to hotel California. He is admiring her woreishness in arather negative way. He observes the rituals of Hotel as naïve realism without even having the fecundity to respond in protest or even show responses that are creative and imaginative. The first person narrator also experiences the rituals taking place in Hotel California. Hallucinogenic voices are always welcoming him to Hotel California. The reader can be provoked to read into the backward masking of this song or become so involved in the lyrical thaumaturgy of the guitars sliding on strings- forgetting the meaning of the text. Towards the last verses of the song, the voice blind folds and kidnaps the identity of the traveler and speaks directly to him as Hotel California being a place where he can never leave. The weary, flowery knight also portrays how the users gather in the Master's chambers and knife the beast. Yet, they do not burden or taunt the BEAST. The narrator's symbolism, of a created monotheistic religious belief of conflicting dualism between binary conceptions as light and darkness, attains a meta symbolic transmutation of ethics, suggesting drug abuse as the demonic force that allures and succumbs the 70's generation as the searching flowery knights.
Though he tries to make a last attempted effort to escape Hotel California, he is reminded pathetically that he has chosen his existence there and therefore his exit is closed. He is the height of aesthetics- a kind of resuscitated postmortem fin de siecle.
The lady is most of the time presented as the third person narrator. She mixes many stereotype archetypes of the Woman, the angel, the whore, the Madonna, the mother goddess. The narrative speaks very little of her character as individuality-a term with which the 70's Woman was trying to live in, that is, move beyond the realm of archetypal stereotypes. In the portrayal of her by the weary traveler, she is seen to desire commodity gifts and enjoy herself in courtship with rich pretty boys. She is provided with no voice to authenticate her being except when she says to the weary traveler that: " we are prisoners of our own device." She becomes a filler- in- kind-of-woman for the Hotel California stage, a motif that is surely a danger zone for the 70's woman wanting to assert her individuality. Her alibi as fictional pulp fails because the song narrative fails to espouse any kind of motive for her desire to invite the weary traveler.
The night watch man has very little role to play but attains signification when he says innocently like a fairy tale hero to the weary traveler who was escaping out of Hotel California: "relax", once you are in there is no way of going out. The night watch man is nothing new as a grim reaper that silences the song to heights of pessimism, nihilism, and an attitude of life that succumbs to death rather than challenging life to live till death.