Short Summary of the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

Also Read


In Our Time (1924)

      Hemingway’s entry into the literary world began with his reporting days. But his first creative work to be published was three Stories and ten Poems in 1923 and his literary career begins with the publication of In Our Time a collection of twelve short stories in Paris, later in 1925, an American edition of the same containing fifteen short stories were published. The title is taken from the verse ‘Give us peace in our time, O Lord’ from the Common Book of Prayer. The title is ironical and the sketches and stories in the book deal with war, bull fighting and other violent incidents of contemporary life that Hemingway came across in his days as a roving reporter. Hemingway takes up a violent themes and through them explores the pain and torment affecting the modem world. The Paris volume includes them pertaining to the execution of politicians, an artillery barrage, thieves being shot by China's Policemen, the wondering and death of a bull-fighter, a country taken by civil war and its irresponsible king. The American value contains fifteen additional stories, when Nick Adams, the first Hemingway hero is introduced. He appears in seven of these short stories and he is connecting factor of these stories, creating the impression that these stories are different chapters in the biography of Nick Adams.

Nick Adams

      Nick Adams is the first Hemingway’s hero. In the stories that appeared in In Our Time he is presented as a young American boys, who lives with his father in an area inhabited by Indians. His father teaches him to fish and shoot. And the stories chronicle Nick’s journey from his first love affair with an Indian girl Trudy, his first sexual experimentation and sexual awakening, and then his experiences in the war, being wounded, getting married and his experience of fatherhood, A most engaging and attractive hero, critics bewail his later disappearance from Hemingway’s other novels, though shades of him appear in such heroes as Frederic Henry of A Farewell to Arms. Nick Adams is to a large extent a self-portrait. A large dose of the young Hemingway can be seen in the character of Nick Adams. Like Hemingway, Nick Adams’ personality is marred by self-reliance, experimentation, venturesome, sporty and outdoorish brave and sensitivity. It also notes how Adam was psychologically as well as physically wounded during the war, which torment him and from which easy recovery is impossible. Following are some of the more significant Nick Adams stories.

Indian Camp

      This is the first story in the Nick Adams series. It is typical of the stories about Nick Adams which is about a young boy’s initiation into violence and pain. From avidity and innocence to the world of harsh, unpleasant reality is one jerky, violent moment. In this story, Nick Adams comes into contact with pain, birth and death through two freak cases. Nick Adams accompanies his father, who is a doctor in the Indian camp where a woman is giving birth. Nick witnesses the mother’s intense physical pain as she undergoes labor and also the violent shock of discovering that the young husband has committed suicide, slashing his neck, as he was unable to stand his wife’s screams. The most point of the story is the emotional effect of these incidents on Nick who enquire of his father whether all women had such a bad time while having babies and whether many men kill themselves.

The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife

      This story shows Nick witnessing a conflict between his parents and Nick finds himself taking his father that is the doctor’s side. In taking sides with his father, Nick has aligned himself towards the masculine world and its realities at the same time rejecting his mother and her refusal to see evil in the world.

The End of Something

      In this short story, Nick has become a little older and has stepped into the world of sexual experience. The story recounts how a love affair comes to an end and Nick is faced with a dilemma of confronting what he actually feels as a result of ending the affair and what he thinks he ought to feel. The same kind of experience is repeated in the story The Three Day Blow. This is again about his initiation and experience of the relationship with the opposite sex and talks more about his entry into the male domain.

The Battler

      Here, Nick encounters a boxer who is violent and half crazy. He is obsessed about throwing punches and ironically the story also has a soft-spoken Negro as the boxer’s protector. The story deals with the relationship between the two men which Nick observes that this relationship is darkly sinister. This disturbing and confounding quality of the relationship has been brilliantly portrayed in a skillful and subtle manner.

      All the stories deal therefore of wounds, and the question of death and experience with pain. Nick Adam and shades of his character later appear in one name or another dealing with such experiences. Nick is wounded physically but his psychological wound is deeper, this leads to the story when he comes away from war arid declares that he has made a separate peace, much like Frederic Henry in Hemingway’s later novel A Farewell to Arms.

Men Without Women 1927 - Winner Take Nothing (1932)

      These are again collections of short stories when Nick Adams appears again.

Ten Indians

      In this story, Nick Adams come across nine Indians lying drunk on the road side, as he returns in a wagon from a visit to a neighbor who is a farmer. The tenth Indian is a girl called Prudence and the farmer’s sons tease Nick about her. Later, his father reveals that he had seen Prudence with another boy. It is another lesson learned in his sexual awakening and Nick cries into his pillow.

The Light of the World

      Here, Nick as an adolescent progresses further on the journey of sexual understanding. Nick has to undergo the shock of a homosexual making sexual advances. He also witnesses to two whores one honest and the other dishonest, quarreling about their relationship with a, prizefighter. Nick has to write with the problem of adjusting the conventional view of middle class society to the reality that can only be seen by going beyond these conventions.

The Killers

      Here, Nick Adams comes across a man who calmly accepts the fact that the gunmen who are out to get his will surely kill him. Nick is appalled by his passive acceptance and unable to bear the thought decides to get out of the town as quickly as possible.

A Way You'll Never Be

      This is another well-known Nick Adams story. It contains the experience most traumatic in all the Nick Adams stories. Nick has been injured and he is recovering from big wounds. But it is not easy. He suffers horribly. He cannot sleep and when awake he is delirious. He hallucinates and in his hallucination he sees a girl who fleets in and out of his vision sometime alone and sometime with someone. Nick is in a desperate struggle with his nerves, fighting to gain control over them and perhaps someday he shall be able to find peace.

The Shows of Kilimanjaro

      This short story, came out in 1936. The story confronts death at varying levels and death as symbol and as reality are fully developed. Here, a severely wounded man waits in the hot sun of the African plain to wait for his leg to fester and poison his system. And as he waits, he has an intense affair with the woman tending him which is further intensified by his memories of happier times. His only hope is that he is rescued by air. But there is a frozen leopard or the snow-capped summit of the Kilimanjaro. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that height. And one needs to explain why the plans who rescue him turn away from its course towards the mountain.

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macdmber (1936)

      This is a remarkable story about fear And courage and the code. In many respects Francis Macomber remember Robert Cohn from The Sun Also Rises. They are both rich, athletic, a good shot but lacking in courage. Francis goes on a big-game hunting expedition. Then he commits anti-code blunders. He wants to shoot from the car, then he panics and is able to only injure the lion. However, he is afraid to go after the lion into the long and kill it. When he does, and the lion attacks, he turns and runs instead of facing the lion. Wilson, who stands his ground kills the lion and save him. If Francis is anti-code, then, Wilson is the code-hero. He is courageous and self-reliant. He is not dependent on anyone either for love or money. The story then progresses on how Francis Qutgrows his fear and attains as much courage as Wilson which results in a new bond between the men but Francis on the other hand slowly loses his wife’s love and ultimately dies at her hands.

Previous Post Next Post