Hemingway's Short Stories

Hemingway's Short Stories



Hemingway's Short Stories

About Hemingway's Short Stories

The importance of including Hemingway in American Literature anthologies cannot be overestimated. Hemingway's style and subject matter are archetypal of American writing. Hemingway broke new literary ground when he began publishing his short stories. Furthermore, not only was he an American writer, but he was not an ivory-tower esthete; he was a man's man. He hunted in grand style, deep-sea fished, covered both World War I and World War II for national news services, and was married as many times as Hollywood celebrities — and yet he found time to write novels and stories that feature men and women facing both death and emotional crises with grit, gumption, and grand tenacity.
Hemingway's heroes are characterized by their unflinching integrity. They do not compromise. They are vulnerable but are not defined by their vulnerability. Hemingway's men and women are often defiant of what society expects of them: they eat with gusto, devour adventure, and have sex — simply and directly.
In the beginning, Hemingway wrote about himself, and he would continue to write himself into all, or most, of his characters until his death. His first persona was Nick Adams, a young boy who accompanies a doctor to an American Indian camp and watches the doctor use a jackknife to slice into a woman's abdomen and deliver a baby boy. At that early age, Nick vows never to die. Later, he defies death and the sanity-threatening wounds that he receives in Italy during World War I. He rotely repeats, in blind faith, the knee-bending exercises for his stiff, battle-scarred knee. Instinctively, he returns to the north woods of Michigan to heal his soul of the trauma of war. Hemingway himself suffered a bad knee wound during the war and returned to hunting and fishing in Michigan's northern woods.
In his more mature stories, such as "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," Hemingway creates far more complex characters and situations for his characters. "Snows" is a stylistic tour de force, a perfect dovetailing of intense, invigorating, interior-monologue flashbacks as contrasts to sections of present-time narratives, during which the main character, a writer named Harry, is slowly dying of gangrene. Symbolically, Harry is also rotting away because of the poisonous nature of his wife's money. As his life ebbs away, he realizes that his writing talent has been ebbing away for years, as surely as his life is, symbolized by the hyena and the buzzards that wait to feast on his carcass.
"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" and "Hills like White Elephants" are examples of Hemingway's most pared-down style, in which he removes himself from the role of narrator. The stories are almost wholly composed of dialogue. One must engage him or herself in the narratives and ignite his or her imagination to understand the emotional core of each of these stories. Hemingway expects us to.
Hemingway's genius as an American original was evident long before he produced his novels that are today considered masterpieces of American literature. Both critics and readers have hailed his short stories as proof that a pure, true American literature was finally possible. American literature was no longer merely watered-down British reading fare. American literature had at last come into its own. Hemingway set the standard — and the writers who came after him honored his achievement.


Hemingway's Style

A great deal has been written about Hemingway's distinctive style. In fact, the two great stylists of twentieth-century American literature are William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, and the styles of the two writers are so vastly different that there can be no comparison. For example, their styles have become so famous and so individually unique that yearly contests award prizes to people who write the best parodies of their styles. The parodies of Hemingway's writing style are perhaps the more fun to read because of Hemingway's ultimate simplicity and because he so often used the same style and the same themes in much of his work.
From the beginning of his writing career in the 1920s, Hemingway's writing style occasioned a great deal of comment and controversy. Basically, a typical Hemingway novel or short story is written in simple, direct, unadorned prose. Possibly, the style developed because of his early journalistic training. The reality, however, is this: Before Hemingway began publishing his short stories and sketches, American writers affected British mannerisms. Adjectives piled on top of one another; adverbs tripped over each other. Colons clogged the flow of even short paragraphs, and the plethora of semicolons often caused readers to throw up their hands in exasperation. And then came Hemingway.
An excellent example of Hemingway's style is found in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." In this story, there is no maudlin sentimentality; the plot is simple, yet highly complex and difficult. Focusing on an old man and two waiters, Hemingway says as little as possible. He lets the characters speak, and, from them, we discover the inner loneliness of two of the men and the callous prejudices of the other. When Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954, his writing style was singled out as one of his foremost achievements. The committee recognized his "forceful and style-making mastery of the art of modern narration."
Hemingway has often been described as a master of dialogue; in story after story, novel after novel, readers and critics have remarked, "This is the way that these characters would really talk." Yet, a close examination of his dialogue reveals that this is rarely the way people really speak. The effect is accomplished, rather, by calculated emphasis and repetition that makes us remember what has been said.
Perhaps some of the best of Hemingway's much-celebrated use of dialogue occurs in "Hills like White Elephants." When the story opens, two characters — a man and a woman — are sitting at a table. We finally learn that the girl's nickname is "Jig." Eventually we learn that they are in the cafe of a train station in Spain. But Hemingway tells us nothing about them — or about their past or about their future. There is no description of them. We don't know their ages. We know virtually nothing about them. The only information that we have about them is what we learn from their dialogue; thus this story must be read very carefully.
This spare, carefully honed and polished writing style of Hemingway was by no means spontaneous. When he worked as a journalist, he learned to report facts crisply and succinctly. He was also an obsessive revisionist. It is reported that he wrote and rewrote all, or portions, of The Old Man and the Sea more than two hundred times before he was ready to release it for publication.
Hemingway took great pains with his work; he revised tirelessly. "A writer's style," he said, "should be direct and personal, his imagery rich and earthy, and his words simple and vigorous." Hemingway more than fulfilled his own requirements for good writing. His words are simple and vigorous, burnished and uniquely brilliant. Certainly each of the short stories represents a finished, polished "gem" — Hemingway's own word for his short stories. No word is superfluous, and no more words are needed. Along with such well-known short-story writers as William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and John Steinbeck, Hemingway is considered by literary critics to be one of the world' s finest.


The Doctor and the Doctor’s wife
The End of Something
The Three-Day Blow
The Killers
Indian Camp
A Way You’ll Never Be
In Another Country
Hills Like White Elephants
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
Big Two-Hearted River
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
The Old Man and the Sea


The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
Ernest Hemingway first published “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” in the September, 1936, issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. Later, it was among the stories collected in Hemingway’s The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. The reception of Hemingway’s fiction has always been intertwined with the understanding of Hemingway as a figure. Hemingway was the consummate sportsman; few others in American history, with the possible exception of Teddy Roosevelt, have come to symbolize with such consistency the spirit of the outdoorsman. Yet Hemingway’s characters add an interesting and telling dimension to this myth. Their solitude is almost always interrupted, and their ruggedness almost always complemented by sensitivity and aesthetic sensibility. Because “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” does not represent this Hemingway norm, it stands apart from the author’s other short fiction. Its hero, Francis Macomber, is anything but the consummate sportsman. He is inept and somewhat cowardly, but Hemingway portrays him with sympathy, revealing the anxiety and tragedy that such narrow definitions of manhood can produce. The juxtaposition of Francis Macomber and his nemesis, Robert Wilson, clearly underscores this tension, as does Macomber’s struggle to win the favor of his perpetually jaded wife, Margot. Margot’s final act has been the source of great debate among critics for decades, and it is difficult, upon reading and rereading the story, to determine any one simple explanation for her actions. The story is based upon an actual scandal that had taken place in Kenya involving a wife, a love affair, and the wife’s implication in the death of her husband, which was suppressed in the media and covered up by the British government.
“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is set in the African savanna, to which Mr. and Mrs. Macomber have come on a hunting expedition, led by Robert Wilson. The hunting expedition ends in tragedy when Mr. Macomber stands his ground before a charging buffalo and is shot by his wife.
A great deal of symbolism contributes to the meaning of this story. The dichotomy of camp and savanna serves as a symbol of the differences that exist between Macomber and Robert Wilson. To leave the camp is to leave the world of comfort and luxury that the Macombers normally enjoy. The savanna represents Wilson’s world, the wild, savage force of nature. The lion and the buffalo, representations of nature itself in all its brutal force, also come to symbolize the differences in courage and manhood that exist between Macomber and Wilson. Similarly, the guns themselves operate as symbols of manhood.
Point of View
The story is told in third-person point of view, meaning that it is related by a narrator who is not a part of the action of the story. This point of view allows the author to describe events in an objective manner. For example, Hemingway can simultaneously present Margot’s insistence on her innocence and Wilson’s belief that she is not innocent. It is the author’s third-person narrative point of view, where the narrator does not always know what is going on in the minds of the characters he presents, that allows this ambiguity. No one but Margot Macomber can be certain of her guilt or innocence, and the narrator, who does not have access to this information, does not settle the debate.
Irony is an essential element of this story. The most obvious and striking example of irony is the title itself. Certainly, Macomber’s life is “short,” but is it “happy” ? It is also ironic that his wife, the very person who should protect him, is the cause of his death. Furthermore, the fact that it may have been her impulse to protect Macomber which destroys him makes the climax of the story ironic. Hemingway uses irony to provide enough ambiguity in the narrative for the outcome of the story to be unclear.

The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea, one of Ernest Hemingway's most famous works, was published on this date in 1952. Critics praised the novella, which was Hemingway's last major work of fiction, and he won 1953's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Award of Merit Medal from the American Academy of Letters. In 1954, Hemingway was presented with the Nobel Prize in Literature "for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style."
The Old Man and the Sea served to reinvigorate Hemingway's literary reputation and prompted a reexamination of his entire body of work. The novella was initially received with much popularity; it restored many readers' confidence in Hemingway's capability as an author. Its publisher, on an early dust jacket, called the novella a "new classic," and many critics favorably compared it with such works as William Faulkner’s "The Bear" and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.
Point of View
All novels use at least one point of view, or angle of vision, from which to tell the story. The point of view may be that of a single character, or of several characters in turn. The Old Man and the Sea uses the omniscient, or "all-knowing," point of view of the author, who acts as a hidden narrator. The omniscient point of view enables the author to stand outside and above the story itself, and thus to provide a wider perspective from which to present the thoughts of the old man and the other characters. Thus at the beginning of the tale, the omniscient narrator tells us not only what Santiago and the boy said to each other, but what the other fishermen thought of the old man. "The older fishermen looked at him and were sad. But they did not show it."
The Old Man and the Sea takes place entirely in a small fishing village near Havana, Cuba, and in the waters of the Gulf Stream, a current of warm water that runs north, then east of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea. Hemingway visited Cuba as early as 1928, and later lived on the coast near Havana for nineteen years, beginning in 1940, so he knew the area very well. The references to Joe Dimaggio and a series of games between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers in which Dimaggio came back from a slump have enabled scholars to pinpoint the time during which the novel takes place as mid-September 1950. As Manolin also reminds readers, September is the peak of the blue marlin season. The story takes three days, the length of the battle against the fish, but as Manolin reminds the old man, winter is coming on and he will need a warm coat.
Like the three-day epic struggle itself of Santiago against the fish, Hemingway's story falls into three main parts. The first section entails getting ready for the fishing trip; then the trip out, including catching the fish and being towed by it, which encompasses all of the first two days and part of the third; and finally the trip back. Another way of dividing and analyzing the story is by using a dramatic structure devised by Aristotle. In the opening part of the story, or rising action, the readers are presented with various complications of the conflict between the other fishermen's belief that Santiago is permanently unlucky and Santiago and the boy's belief that the old man will still catch a fish. For example, readers learn that some of the other villagers, like the restaurant owner Pedrico, help Santiago, while others avoid him. The climax of the story, when Santiago kills the fish, marks the point at which the hero's fortunes begin to take a turn for the worse. This turning point becomes evident when sharks start to attack the fish and leads inevitably to the resolution (or denouement) of the drama, in which Santiago, having no effective weapons left to fight the sharks, must watch helplessly as they strip the carcass of all its remaining meat. Perhaps showing the influence of modern short story writers, however, Hemingway has added to the ending what James Joyce called an epiphany, or revelation of Santiago's true character. This moment comes when the author implicitly contrasts the tourist's ignorance of the true identity of the marlin's skeleton to Santiago's quiet knowledge of his skill and his hope, reflected in his repeated dreams of the lions on the beach, that he will fish successfully again.
A symbol can be defined as a person, place, or thing that represents something more than its literal meaning. Santiago, for example, has often been compared to Christ in the way he suffers. His bleeding hands, the way he carries the boat mast like a cross, and the way he lies on his bed with his arms outstretched, all have clear parallels in the story of Christ's crucifixion. In this interpretation of the story, Manolin is seen as a disciple who respects and loves Santiago as his teacher. In this context, the sea could be said to represent earthly existence. Humans, as stated in Genesis, have been created by God to have dominion over all other living creatures, including the fish in the sea. Yet humans like Santiago still suffer because of Adam and Eve's original sin of eating the apple from the tree of knowledge. Santiago, however, says he does not understand the concept of sin. Santiago can also be seen more broadly as a representative of all human beings who must struggle to survive, yet hope and dream of better things to come. Hemingway himself does not seem to mind if his characters, setting, and plot have different meanings to different readers. He once said that he "tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things."


A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
The story begins at a cafe very late at night. Two waiters are watching their last, lingering customer, an old man who is by now very drunk. These are the story’s three major characters. The older of the two waiters informs the young one that the old man tried to commit suicide the previous week. They then watch a couple go by, a soldier and a young woman, and comment on the soldier’s chances of going undetected after curfew.
Next, the young waiter moves into action. When the old man indicates that he wants another drink served the young waiter mutinies. He decides he wants to go home, regardless of an unspoken rule that dictates he not go until the last customer voluntarily leaves. He pretends not to know what the old man wants. The old man realizes that the younger waiter is being offensive, but ignores him and asks out loud for the drink. When the waiter brings it, he makes it spill deliberately. Moreover, knowing that the old man is deaf, as he walks away he says, “You should have killed yourself last week.” With these actions, the character of the young waiter is established.
The two waiters then have a number of conversations about the old man and his suicide and situation. These talks are interrupted by the younger waiter finally telling the old man to leave, which he does. We learn various facts from these interchanges. For example, the young waiter is “all confidence,” he is married, he has a job, he is content with life and has little pity for those who are not content. He defends his actions (being churlish and making the old man leave): a cafe is not an all-night venue; if the old man were considerate he would let the waiters go home to their beds; there are bars and bodegas for people wanting to stay out late. The older waiter resembles the old man: he is lonely and he lives alone with no wife. He is an insomniac. He insists that special deference is due the old man because of his recent suicide attempt.
Once the cafe is tidied and locked, the two waiters part amicably enough. The reader now finishes out this very short story with the older waiter. He does not go straight home. He thinks how he completely understands the old man’s desire to linger at a cafe, because the ambiance of a cafe is entirely different from that of a bar or bodega. He ends up, however, at a bar. All the cafes are, after all, closed. The old waiter looks at the bar where he stands and points out to the barman that his venue is well-lighted, but not clean: “The light is very pleasant but the bar is unpolished.” The barman ignores the waiter. The waiter does not stay for a second drink. Apparently, he now feels strong enough to go home to his insomnia: “He disliked bars and bodegas. A clean, well-lighted cafe was a very different thing. Now, without thinking further, he went home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it is probably only insomnia. Many must have it.”
A short story as glaringly brief and simplified as this one is rightly called “minimalist” in its aesthetics (the word aesthetics refers to how the author tells his or her story). It uses the minimum building blocks necessary to accomplish the job of telling a story. Hemingway uses simple diction, usually monosyllabic words of Anglo-Saxon, as opposed to Latin, origin. Grammatically, he uses simple as opposed to complex sentences. There is little figurative language — no metaphor or simile, for example. Character and plot are minimized. These three characters do not even have names. All that happens is that the two waiters talk, the old man drinks, and then they all go home.
It is very clear to the reader what Hemingway does not do in this minimalist short story, but what does he do? One thing he does beyond the narrative minimum is repeat, or repeat with variation. For example, the story opens with an old man “who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light.” A bit further in the story the old man is said to sit “in the shadow of the leaves of the tree that moved slightly in the wind.” And a few sentences later the old man is the one who is “sitting in the shadow....” This repetition of the same with variation is the barest gesture at the figurative delights art can offer. In repeating, Hemingway seems to acknowledge the beauty of pattern or artifice, but instead of actually providing any he simply gestures at its possibility.
Point of View
Hemingway’s narration seems designed to lessen the effect of a judging presence. His omniscient narrator may see and know all, but precious little is offered for consideration. This is an effaced narrator. Setting and character are barely described. What the cafe might look like, apart from the fact that it is clean and well-lighted, the reader never knows. Neither does the reader know what the waiters look like, what they are wearing, and so forth. More important, this narrator does not describe a character’s psychology, or tell the reader what should be thought about a character or event. Omniscience like this hardly deserves the name. Third person narrators are supposed to know and tell all, but this narrator strives for objectivity. The readers are to judge what the characters say and do for themselves. Of course, the situation or plot is engineered by the author, so this sense of readerly autonomy is artificial. Nevertheless, the point of this style of narration is to cut down on authorial intervention.


The Snows of Kilimanjaro
The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a short story by Ernest Hemingway. It is also collected together with other stories as The Snows of Kilimanjaro collection. Considered by Hemingway himself to be one of his finest stories, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" was first published in Esquire in 1936 and then republished in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories (1938).

Plot summary

The story centers on the memories of a writer named Harry who is on safari in Africa. He develops an infected wound from a thorn puncture, and lies awaiting his slow death. This loss of physical capability causes him to look inside himself—at his memories of the past years, and how little he has actually accomplished in his writing. He realizes that although he has seen and experienced many wonderful and astonishing things during his life, he had never made a record of the events; his status as a writer is contradicted by his reluctance to actually write. He also quarrels with the woman with him, blaming her for his living decadently and forgetting his failure to write of what really matters to him, namely his experiences among poor and "interesting" people, not the predictable upper class crowd he has fallen in with lately. Thus he dies, having lived through so much and yet having lived only for the moment, with no regard to the future. In a dream he sees a plane coming to get him and take him to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Point of View and Narration
The type of narration Ernest Hemingway typically uses, the author himself said in an interview with George Plimpton, was fashioned on the “principle of the iceberg ... for seven eighths of it is under water for every part that shows.” In A Moveable Feast (1964), his memoir of Paris in the 1920s, he expands on this. “You could omit anything,” he writes, “if the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.” Hemingway’s characters usually bury not only their feelings about their pasts but their pasts, as well, and his narrators — usually third-person narrators who see inside the heads of the main character — join along in this act of burial. In most of his best short stories, the protagonists are carrying some deep psychological hurt that they will not even think about to themselves. Their minds are “icebergs” because the reader can see just the hint of these troubles peek forth at times, and must read extremely carefully to try to piece together exactly what is bothering the protagonist.
In this sense, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a very atypical Hemingway story. In this story, the matters that trouble Harry are made clear to the reader; the narrator, who is inside Harry’s head, speaks of them explicitly. But Hemingway sets these instances of introspection apart, dividing them into sections printed in italics. In all but one of the sections that are in roman type, the narration is typical Hemingway: blunt, unadorned, almost devoid of adjectives, and quite uninformative as to what Harry is feeling. The sentences are short and declarative. But when the narration drifts into the italic sections, the tone changes. The sentences grow longer and almost stream-of-consciousness, with one clause tacked on after another recording the protagonist’s impression of a scene. The narrator describes scenes fondly and vividly, and uses metaphors and figurative language: “the snow as smooth to see as cake frosting,” for instance.
As the story proceeds and Harry’s condition worsens, the switching between unadorned narration and impressionistic, memory-laden narration becomes quicker and more frequent, until the penultimate section. In this section — the section in which Compton arrives and takes Harry away — the reader thinks they are in the “real world” until the end, when they realize that Harry is having another dream sequence. This time, though, the dream — usually delineated by italics — has bled through to the “real world,” and the only clue, before the end of the dream, that it is a dream is the sentence structure. In this section, the sentences are longer, more impressionistic, more descriptive, just as the sentences in the earlier italic dream segments were. The contrast between the “real world,” in which Harry’s gangrene has killed him, and the dream world, in which he is flying toward the “unbelievably white” peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, is accentuated in the final section, in which the narrator returns to his short, declarative sentences.
The flashback is a technique that Hemingway uses extensively in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” The story is divided between present-time sections (set in roman type) and flashbacks (set in italics). In the present-time sections, the protagonist is facing his death stoically, quietly, and with a great deal of machismo. All he needs is whiskey and soda to accept his imminent death. But in the flashback sections, Harry faces his life. His flashbacks show the reader that he has had an exciting and well-traveled life, but that he is also haunted by his memories of World War I. He served in the U.S. Army in that war and saw combat on the Eastern front, in the Balkans, and Austria. The violence and death that he saw there come back to him as his rotting leg tells him that he is about to die.
Harry’s past is not all negative, though. He is a writer, and in his flashbacks he thinks about his vocation and about all of the stories he wanted to write that he never took the time to begin. He has spent time in Paris with the artists and writers who lived there in the 1920s (one name he mentions, Tristan Tzara, is a real poet of the time, and another, “Julian,” is a thinly-disguised portrait of the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald) and is familiar with the Place de la Contrescarpe, a popular bohemian locale of the time. His flashbacks also show that he is an experienced outdoorsman — necessary background to this character, so that readers do not think of him as a greenhorn who is dying out of pure inexperience.
“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” alludes subtly to two well-known short stories: one by its structure and technique, the other by its subject matter. The first story is “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1891), by the American writer Ambrose Bierce. In this story, set during the Civil War, an Alabama man is being hanged on Owl Creek Bridge for espionage. As the story opens, readers see him on the bridge, having the noose put over his head. When the boards under his feet are snatched away, the rope breaks. He is able to use his bound hands to take the rope off his neck and swim away down the river as the Union soldiers’ bullets hit the water by him. After swimming down the river a long way, he gets out and finds his way back home. As he arrives at his house and as his wife stretches her arms to greet him, the noose jerks at his neck and he dies instantly. The whole story has been an imaginary scene that the protagonist has lived through from the time he begins falling to the time that the rope’s slack runs out. Just like in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” the seeming salvation for the hero existed only in the hero’s mind.


novella = a fictional tale in prose, intermediate in length and complexity between a short story and a novel, and usually concentrating on a single event or chain of events, with a surprising turning point. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1902) is a fine example; Henry James and D. H. Lawrence also favoured the novella form. The term comes from the Italian word novella (‘novelty’; plural novelle), which was applied to the much shorter stories found in Boccaccio's Decameron (1349–1353), until it was borrowed at the end of the 18th century by Goethe and other writers in Germany, where the novella (German, Novelle) in its modern sense became established as an important literary genre. In France it is known as the nouvelle. See also conte, novelette.
novella = a short prose tale often characterized by moral teaching or satire.


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Hemingway's Short Stories


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Hemingway's Short Stories