THE THEME OF INDIVIDUATION IN THE
SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY
JOSEPH MICHABL DeFALCO
IN PRTIL FLFILMEN OFTHIREQUIREMESNTSFO TH
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
TO MY WIFE
The existence of architectonic forms in literary creations
presupposes a base point from which the artist proceeds in order to
actuate his aesthetic formulations. This point would presumably lie
in the realm of the conceptual and would correspond to some degree with
the artist' s intent. Hemingway' s entire literary edifice rests on his
openly avowed desire to translate factual data into fictive configura-
tions which in turn re-create the essence of true-life experience.
In effect he set for himself the task of capturing reality in a repre-
sentative art form. The establishment of a referent implies much more
than mere intent on the artist's part, for if he has fully committed
himself to the inherent possibilities of his choice then he has at the
same time selected the governing agency of his artistic productions.
The problem then would remain of selecting the most suitable means by
which the ends of this agency would best be served.
In his short stories Hemingway structures the content upon the
theme of individuation. His central characters constantly face contin-
gent forces in life. Their attempts to reconcile the irrationality of
these intrusions form the underlying motivation for action. Reconciling
the seemingly irreconcilable demands feats of heroic magnitude at the
individual level, Some of Hemingway's heroes fail, some succeed; others
assimilate the irrational elements and emerge as a different kind of hero,
For the latter, assimilation amounts to crucifixion, and several of
Hemingwayr a heroes follow the pattern of the crucified-god motif.
Those who manage to face the irrational forces and who compromise with
them become the "adjusted" ones. Those who cannot compromise or over-
come these forces become moral cowards and are depicted as the alien-
ated and isolated ones.
Anl examination of Hemingway's short stories in the light of
Carl Gustav Jung's psychoanalytic procedures reveals suggestive realms
in Hemingway s fiction hitherto submerged under the epithets of natural-
ism and realism. Hemingway' s artistry goes far beyond such generaliza-
tions, and only a close examination of individual stories reveals its
true range. In the short stories Hemingway has attempted to catalogue
the progress of contemporary man in his strivings to somehow come to
terms with a world which he cannot truly understand. Sometimes the
focus is upon individual and local conflicts, but always the imagina-
tive manipulations of symbolic materials project such conflicts beyond
the immediate. To examine the interworkings of Hemingway's stories is
to comprehend the complete mastery which Hemingway holds over his
In this study I have drawn more on the works of Jung as inform-
ing agents than as rigid guides to force Hemingway's artistry into the
mold of psychoanalysis. Jungian patterns of motifs and psychological
insights offer rich possibilities for literary interpretation, and I
have drawn upon them when needed. Joseph Campbellrs work has provided
illuminating insights, many of which could not be documented since
they were peripheral rather than direct. Professor William Bysshe Stein's
articles and some personal discussion were helpful. Professor Edwin
M. Mioseley, with whom I studied as an undergraduate, contributed much
to my early and lasting insights into Hemingway's fiction.
The careful guidance and sympathy given me by my committee
chairman, Professor Harry R. Warfel, needs to be acknowledged in other
ways; without his critical acumen and kindly advice this study would
have been impossible. I wish also to thank Professor Charles W. Morris,
who not only served as a committee member but also guided me through
my investigations of Jung. Professor David Stryker, Professor Stephen
F. Fogel, and Professor John A. Penrod served as members of my committee
and gave me their time and advice when I most needed it. Others who may
go unacknowledged here also have my gratitude.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE ........... ... ......... iii
I. INTRODUCTION ........ .......... .. 1
II. INITIATION EXPERIENCES .. .. . .. . 25
III. THRESHOLD EXPERIENCES . ... .. ... . .. 67
IV, THE WJAR AND AFPER .. .. .. .. .. .. 103
V. THE MARRIAGE GROUP .................. 155
VI. THE HE1%NGWAY HERO .. .. . .... ... .. 185
BIBLIOGRAPHY ......................... 220
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .. .. .... .. .. .. .. .. 222
In any work of fiction the artist must solve the problem of
selecting an adequate framework upon which to exploit his thematic
design. The choice may be fortunate or unfortunate, depending upon
the degree of skill of the particular artist. It may be an obvious,
mechanical device, with the primary function of furthering the literal
development of surface action, or it may serve a more meaningful pur-
pose as an actual, integral part of the theme itself. This latter
function is certainly the one to be desired, for this important element
in the over-all unity of any work is a major contributing factor to its
Ultimately, of course, if the artistic integrity of a work has
been adequately sustained, it is impossible to separate the internal
architectonic forms from the thematic design itself. Both are mutually
supporting and interpenetrative, taking their vitality one from another
in such a manner that any attempt at isolation of one results in the
diminished significance of its complement. Moreover, due regard to the
coequality of the two as fictive ingredients may lead to a more coherent
understanding of the whole as an artistic totality. Immanuel Kant in
Critique of Pure Reason cites form and idea as the body and soul of an
artistic composition. The analogy holds also in this instance, for
neither framework nor theme is complete within itself. The sublimation
of mode and idea, of form and theme, is finally the test of the true
worth of the artistry involved in any imaginative work.
A work of fiction as an imaginative dramatization of ideas
must confonn to the implications of its nature. In America the products
of fictional endeavor are numerous, but only in a few is the union and
harmony of the mechanical and the conceptual apparent. Melville's
MoyDc, Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and RTain's The Adventures
of Huckleberry Finn are among the works of the past that have exhibited
such an artistry, and they are among America's greatest literary
Close examination of the works of these three authors demon-
strates that each was a master in creating the mode of expression best
suited to project his themes. Nothing is gained, for instance, in
viewing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a simple story of a boy
on a raft floating down a river, for this surface examination overlooks
the important fact that Twain carefully structured his story on the
journey artifice and that Huck's development as a moral and ethical
agent is an inherent part of a universal pattern. It would be equally
inconsequential to designate Mb i as a story solely about whale
hunting or The Scarlet Letter as a description of life in early Puritan
Boston. Both of these novels are considerably more, and what makes
them more than simple stories is the artistry employed in evolving a
framework which adequately serves as the vehicle for conveying a theme.
Each of these novels has a framework that is much more than
surface outline or simple plot structure. In The Adventures of Huckle-
berry Finn such an outline might take cognizance of the episodic struc-
ture, but it would surely miss the correlative mythological and psycho-
logical journey that projects the local into the universal. These
suggestive realms not immediately apparent on the surface of any work
give it thematic depth and project what otherwise might be a superficial
whim or ideal of an author into the sphere of the primordial conflicts
of all men. The ability of an author to so mold his framework that the
reader is constantly subjected to forces beyond the mere transitory
nuances of surface conflict inevitably determines the degree of imme-
diacy in a work of art. It is this quality that is apprehended by
successive generations and makes for permanence in the form.
All art strives for permanence in some fashion, and the degree
of its success is in no small measure due to the artist's ability to
penetrate beyond surface reality into the realm of the universal.
As many efforts to achieve the true in art have been made as there have
been great artists; yet only those authors who have approached success
in this matter have escaped obscurity. Theories of art and aesthetics
are plentiful; since the time of Plato and Aristotle theorists have
striven to characterize the essential elements in a work of art that
explain its ability to transcend the world of the personal and finite
into that of the transpersonal and infinite. Whether or not any sys-
tematic theory has adequately met the challenge of the formidable
nature of aesthetic theory is of no real consequence, however, when
dealing with an individual artist and the body of his work. Each
creative artist has his own private sensitivity and mode of dealing
with his material, and each seeks to answer questions about certain
basic problems of all mankind according to his own peculiar outlook.
The focus upon an individual artist's method of dealing with these
problems and on the problems themselves leads to an understanding of
a work beyond mere elementary impression. The degree of insight at
this level determines the reader's critical apprehension of a work as
a unique achievement and, in rare cases, as an artistic success.
Although many artists have written about their craft, only a
few have approached a systematic crystallization of their ideas and
attitudes. Creative artists are generally interested primarily in
that order of creativity which produces ideas in dramatic form rather
than articulation of these ideas as pure intellectual expression.
With few exceptions major writers have addressed themselves to the
subject of their craft at least fragmentarily both in and out of their
fictional compositions. Many times their commentaries are illuminat-
ing in relation to their own art and to art in general, and always
these expressions merit serious consideration.
In the works of Ernest Hemingway both the overt and implied
statements about art and aesthetic theory are fragmentary. As a
guide to the understanding of certain basic aesthetic techniques and
aims in the fiction, these revelations are not of less significance
because they are not systematized. On the contrary, a full under-
standing of Hemingway' s artistry may come about by an examination of
his fictional achievement in the light of his direct statements about
his art and its meaning. A focus on an artist's intent is not the sole
approach to an understanding of his work, for some authors have created
much that is beyond their own ken. Yet when the artist who has created
the works at hand states a conscious intent, his theorizing reveals the
major emphasis of his thought. It is from this perspective that a view
of some of Hemingway's attitudes toward his work should be approached.
Because of a certain penchant in the Hemingway personality a
difficulty arises in attempting to screen the serious from the ironic
in his statements about his craft. These utterances are hidden in a
wide variety of interviews that have been printed since he first
received public recognition. A number of recurring expressions and
attitudes merit serious consideration. His most important dicta are
in his two early non-fiction works, Death in the Afternoon and Green
Hills of Africa. Since these books take as their subjects bullfight-
ing and big game hunting, respectively, it is not to be expected that
any direct and systematic analysis of the artistic method is attempted
in them; yet it is apparent that the attitudes of Hemingway the bull-
fight aficionado and Hemingway the hunting enthusiast are never far
removed from those of Hemingway the author and aesthetician.
In both of the non-fiction works, using the analogy of a good
bullfighter or hunter as an ideal, Hemingway describes the attitudes
of a good writer. In this way he suggests that the prime target of
every writer ought to be the achievement of that degree of permanence
of which his art is capable. For Hemingway this victory can come only
to the writers of "classics." In the discussion of such writers he
reveals his own strivings and suggests the direction his own art was
to point: "A new classic does not bear any resemblance to the classics
that have preceded it. It can steal from anything that it is better
than, anything that is not classic, all classics do that. Some writers
are born only to help another writer to write one sentence. But it
cannot derive from or resemble a previous classic."1 Aside from the
obvious charge brought by Hemingway's detractors that such passages are
meant to remove some of the stigma from the attacks Gertrude Stein had
made for his borrowings from contemporaries, there is discernible here
an indication that a writer must have the same interest and intensity
of purpose that marks the great bullfighter and hunter. This opinion
is of significance, for such commentaries directly point to Hemingway's
conscious pursuit of a literary ideal.
A further reflection of this quest is exhibited in a passage
in which Hemingway discusses his own reaction to the works of Turgenev.
Describing the feeling of having been physically present in the real
and fictional places in the novels, Hemingway suggests that if one can
achieve such effects in art he will have realized perhaps the greatest
of all human desires--a kind of personal immortality: "A country,
finally, erodes and the dust blows away, the people all die and none
of them were of any importance permanently, except those who practised
IErnest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa (New York: Charles
Scribnerrs Sons, 1955), p. 21.
the arts. .. A thousand years makes economics silly and a work of
art endures forever."
In Death in the Afternoon, the earlier of the two non-fiction
works, Hemingway specifically reveals the origin of his purpose and
the apprenticeship that led to the final accomplishments of the later
works. In such direct accounts his early tendency toward seeking
"truth" in fiction is revealed: "I was trying to write then and I
found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you
really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been
taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what
the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced."5
Although such articulations were responsible for the now shop-worn
commentaries about "the way it was," Hemingway is sincere and gives
serious importance to the necessity of translating the totality of real
life events into art. Always he emphasizes the need to capture the
essence of the varied complexities that go to make up real-life exper-
iences. These statements of purpose when fully examined reveal the
raison d'etre of Hemingway's art as well as his calculated goal of
experimentation with fictional techniques whereby the artistic reflec-
tion would legitimately shape the real life experiences into the mold
of art. Art for Hemingway is not a mere copy of life; rather, almost
2Ibid., p. 109.
3Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon (New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1954), p. 2.
in the sense of what Sidney demanded, it is that which seeks to incor-
porate those elements from experience that are "truer .. than any-
thing factual can be.4
The qualities than can be extracted from real life and united
with fictional forms are, for Hemingway, the basis of the aesthetic
posture of art as opposed to mere writing. Once the writer has found
the secret of creating in this fashion he will have approached the goal
that Hemingway indicates he had set for himself: finding "the real
thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which
would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you
stated it purely enough, alwiays."5 That is, permanence in art can be
achieved through such an aesthetic if the artist is "serious enough
and has luck" and can get beyond a flat, three dimensional imitation
of actuality into the sphere of the "fourth and fifth dimension" of
a pure art form,6
Such piecemeal commentaries scattered throughout his non-fic-
tional works illustrate Hemingway' s fundamental concern with an
aesthetic theory. They further illustrate his desire to free himself
from conventional techniques and forge a new and vibrant artistry in
his chosen craft. How well he succeeded may be seen only in an exam-
ination of some of the actual techniques he selected to attain his goal,
H~emingway, "Introduction, M~en at War (New York: Berkcley
Publishing Corp., 1958), p. 7.
5Hiemingway, Deathl4~ inthfternoon, p. 2.
6Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, pp. 26-27.
In the attempt to get at the "truth" of real life experience
and to attain the ideal of writing a "classic" that he initially posed
for himself, Hemingway began in his early volumes of short stories to
describe the adventures of a boy on the threshold of manhood. As
Philip Young and Carlos Baker have pointed out in their studies,' half
of the stories of In Our Time (1925), the first short story collection,
are devoted to the development of Nick Adams. They are arranged chron-
ologically, moving from Nick's boyhood to his young manhood, and all
of these stories are thematically related. Several more stories about
the same character appear in the next two collections, Men Without
Women (1927) and Winner Take Nothing (1953). Of imnortance to the
whole of Hemingway's fiction is this early focus on a young hero, for,
if Philip Young is correct, this hero is to become the prototype
"Hemingway Hero" who later will have essentially the same background
that Nick has had through his childhood, adolescence, and young manhood.
More important than a mere similarity of background in the successive
protagonists is the resemblance they bear to each other psychologically,
since all are victims of the same plight that is the mark of twentieth-
century man and of all men of all thmes. Some become involved in war,
suffer wounds, and are forced to reconcile the psychological disturb-
ances created by these hurts. Others are forced to come to terms with
Philip Young, Ernest Hemingway, University of Minnesota
Pamphlets on American Writ~er-s~, No. 1 (Minneapolis University of
Minnesota Press, 1959), pp. 4 ff. Carlos Baker, Hemingway: the
Writer as Artist (Princeton: Princeton Universit r~e~sf~s, 156
pp. 127 ff. See also Philip Young, Ernest Hemingway (New York:
Rinehart and Co., Inc., 1952).
the reality of the traumata created by the pressures of a hostile
In Death in the Afternoon Hemingway refers to himself as a
naturalist of the kind that Thoreau was in his observations of nature.
The comparison is a good one, for both differ from the scientific
observer who focuses upon the botanical or zoological significance of
the external and material substances of the world. In his fiction,
Hemingway examines the effect upon the inner being of the traumata that
modern man has experienced in the world. This attempt to get beyond
surface manifestations alone and deal with more basic, primal contexts
led Hemingway to apply certain distinct, psychologically symbolic tech-
niques in his fiction. When these work for him, the entire tone and
texture of his prose comes to a close approximation of the "classic"
he has always tried to write.
At the outset, Hemingway gives N~ick Adams and the other protag-
onists a unique sensibility and an introspective or self-questioning
habit of mind. This technique is not a simple device of characteriza-
tion intended solely to illuminate the character's inner feelings;
rather, it is more expansive and is parallel to the questioning attitude
that heroes have exhibited in literature since Homer first shaped the
epic form. Homer forged into two epic works the whole Greek thought
and culture, and just as his heroes in their victories and defeats
represented the needs and drives and experiences of that culture, so
Hiemingway has for the twentieth century attempted to expand the sig-
nificance of the experiences of his protagonists into a range far
exceeding local and subjective considerations of ordinary fictional
conflict. In short, he has tried to write "classics" by capturing the
tone and tensions of his own culture.
As his organizing principle, Hemingway chose to depict a series
of heroes who get progressively older and experience both literally
and psychologically what all men of the twentieth century have experi-
enced over a period of almost fifty years. When these heroes seem
unusually introspective, and when the themes seem too narrow and local,
Hemingway may have failed as a craftsman, but he has not lost sight of
his ideals. Even in those works where he has been criticized most for
organizational failures, one step further in an over-all plan has been
developed. It is this plan to progressively view man's relationship to
his culture, to the other men in that culture, and ultimately to the
cosmos that Hemingway carefully develops throughout his short stories;
this pattern reveals some of the most significant features of his
In the short stories focusing on Nick Adams and in the other
short stories of the three collections, inner attitudes are external-
ized by means of symbolic reflection. These symbolizations manifest
themselves in a variety of conventional ways, but they also appear in
certain unique and quite unexpected combinations, Sometimes characters
represent particular attitudes, or episodes point up certain conflicts,
or it may be that a sequence of images is repeated a sufficient number
of times to create symbolic formations; many times there is a major,
controlling symbol from which all of the details take their meaning.
One of the most important symbolizations takes the form of a ritual-
ization of a familiar activity, thereby objectifying the intense strug-
gle of the characters in their attempt to find a solution to their inner
turmoil. In this way Hemingway maintains a studied control over his
material, and it is this careful control that forms a contrast to the
content. Ordered artistry is always juxtaposed to the chaos in which
most of the central characters find themselves.
In the development of Nick Adams as the leading protagonist
in the early short stories, Hemingway utilizes one of his most signif-
icant symbolic devices to project his themes. This is the ;journey
artifice, and in one sense all of Hemingway' s works employ some aspect
of this motif. The Hemingway hero may never bear much literal resem-
blance to Odysseus as a classical. hero, but his encounters with the
bitter but always illuminating experiences of life, and his journey
through life itself, are parallel to the classical journey motif.
Hemingway's use of this framework enables the thematic conflicts in
the stories to ramify beyond the immediate literal level of individual
and sociological considerations into the sphere of the primordial,
psychological conflicts of every man.
The intense inner conflicts of the Hemingway protagonist many
times are revealed directly by means of correlative mythological or
psychological symbols which parallel the surface action. It is here
that anyr study of the process of symbolization and its manifold asso-
ciative connotations should begin. Further, by examining Hemingway' s
symnbolism, the development of the hero and the accompanying, implied
theme of individuation may be seen from a perspective hitherto unin-
Most of the psychological and mythological symbolism that may
be analyzed in Hemingway's fiction can be associated with the journey
artifice. As a device it is as old as mankind. Evidence for this
motif has been found by anthropologists in the most primitive cultures,
and its use in the early epic formula is based on verbal and experien-
tial data that precedes man's ability to even articulate his problems.
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell gives a clear ac-
count of its sources and appearances. He describes the various phases
of the heroic journey as a traditional monomyth.
In the essential myth there are generally three dominant move-
ments which are cyclic in pattern. They are the departure of the hero,
the initiation, and the return from his heroic adventure. It cannot
be dogmatically stated that all heroes in fiction will follow the precise
and stereotyped pattern of the heroic journey down to the last detail;
yet they all do follow some aspect of at least one of the categories
described by Campbell. All of the stages need not be present, nor is
it the nature of the journey to discourage those who would take it.
Many works illustrate the initial refusal of the call to adventure, while
others depict protagonists who cannot overcome the obstacles inherent in
the initiatory rites of their culture. There are also accounts of those
BJoseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Bollingen,
XVII (New York: Pantheon Books, 1953).
heroes who have undertaken the journey and surmounted all obstacles
but who refuse to return to society with the light gained as a result
of the adventure. Whenever the hero does proceed through all the stages,
a more coherent and complete design is effected on the narrative level.
But what is more important is that as it attests to a unity of thematic
purpose on the underlying psychological and mythic level it also depicts
the fulfillment of the process of individuation.
It is, of course, difficult if not impossible to ascertain just
how much of Hemingwayi s use of the journey artifice and other manifes-
tations of psychological and mythological symbolism is conscious or
unconscious. Certain assumptions may be made as to the sources of this
material, no matter what its level of conscious utilization. Principally,
as a modern man living in the twentieth century, Hemingway would have
available all of the materials from the traditional sources of the culture.
This cultural inheritance alone can account for his knowledge of the
journey pattern. Whether he adapted it consciously or intuitively, he
almost certainly observed it in his reading.
As Campbell's description of the heroic journey as a monomyth
indicates, the motif has a variety of sources in the literatures of
many nations both ancient and modern. The Fisher King and Grail myths
provide some of the earliest sources for these patterns. In From Ritual
to Romance, Jesse Weston cites an example of the quest motif in one of
the early Fisher King stories, Sone de Nansait "To sum up the result
of the analysis .. that the story postulates a close connection be-
tween the vitality of a certain King, and the prosperity of his kingdom;
the forces of the ruler being weakened or destroyed, by wound, sickness,
old age, or death, the land becomes Waste, and the task of the hero is
that of restoration."9 Here the basic aspects of the artifice may be
seen, but the significance of the myth cannot be said to lie simply on
the surface of the story structure; rather, these myths are part of the
universal psychic patterns of all mankind. Carl G. Jung has discussed
this at length, and in a discussion of the poet's employment of myth,
he says: "It is to be expected of the poet that he will resort to
mythology in order to give his experience its most fitting expression.
.The primordial experience is the source of his creativeness;
it cannot be fathomed, and therefore requires mythological imagery to
give it form."1
Many more examples of hero myths can be found than those in
the early Grail and Fisher King stories. Greek and Roman literature
abounds with them and supplies some outstanding citations. For example,
Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece represents an illuminating
illustration of the traditional journey. The many trials and obstacles
Jason is forced to overcome closely parallel the initiation rites that
the Grail heroes must perform in their quest, Moreover, in the Theseus
story the escape from the Labyrinth after slaying the Minotaur furnishes
"Jessie L. Weston, From Ritual to Romance (New York: Peter
Smith, 1941), p. 21.
1Carl Gustav Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, trans.
W. S. Dell and Cary F. Bayne-s (New Yf~ork: Harcort, Bra and Co.,
Inc., 1948), p. 189.
a classic basis for the description of all subsequent symbolic journeys.
From this myth emerge the important images of the Labyrinth, the psychic
chaos from which all men must escape in order to obtain self-hood, and
the Minotaur, the psychic monster or other self which must be defeated
within the confines of a labyrinthian unconscious world.
Vergil' s hero, Aeneas, must take his ritual journey into the
underworld. There he must cross the threshold of the river of the
dead and pass by the ogre figure of the three-headed watchdog, Cerberus,
in order to talk with the ghost of his father. The boon for the hero
is the revelation of future events and an insight into methods of avoid-
ing pain in the world. He returns from the underworld and crosses the
return threshold of the "ivory gate," thus having symbolically attained
self-hood. In the Divine Comedy of Dante, the journey is similar to
that in the Aeneid. Dante must also cross the threshold of life and
pursue his quest through the underworld with Vergil as his guide. This
situation presents another figure to be found in the traditional jour-
ney, the classic guide. This all-important personage either leads the
hero or points the way toward the quest. Usually the guide has some
special aptitude for this function, such as having completed his own
journey, as Vergil has symbolically taken such a journey before Dante,
A further characteristic of the guide is his supernatural power, whether
given by some deity, as in the case of Vergil in the Divine Comedy, or
given by Satan, as in the case of Mephistopheles in the Faust legends.
The richest and most influential source of myth available to
all artists in Western culture is the Bible. Here there is an abundance
of allegorical and symbolical stories of heroic .journeys, from the
Noah story in Genesis, through the great exodus of the Hebrew nation
led by Moses, into the New Testament with the Christ story, and ending
with the mystic crossing from the conscious world into the visionary
world by St. John the Divine. All of these stories contain the essen-
tial elements of the symbolic journey, and they all contain the same
thematic patterns that occur in other myths of the hero.
These recurring patterns occur in many ancient and modern works,
and their complex meanings are often difficult to interpret. The most
enlightening comments in this connection have come from Jung, and his
is one of the major influences on that branch of literary criticism
which has emphasized the use of psychological, mythological, and
anthropological materials. In order to understand such an approach,
however, it is necessary first to consider several basic points of
Jungian theory, Only in this way do some of the seeming paradoxes
associated with the study of myth patterns and the comparative technique
itself become clear.
First of all, for Jung the "totality of all psychological pro-
cesses" of man is incorporated into what he terms the "psyche." Within
the psyche two spheres interact but have opposite properties. These
spheres are the "conscious" and the "unconscious." The first of these
for Jung is the activity which maintains the relation of the psychic
contents to the ego--that part of the psychic structure which confronts
the world. It is from these levels of consciousness that individuality
arises, and the essence of the process is adaptation. Immediately
below the conscious, in a figurative sense, lies the sphere of the
unconscious, which in turn is divided into two levels. The pesoa
unconscious contains the contents of the conscious which have been
forgotten or repressed but which can be raised to consciousness at any
time. The collective unconscious, whose contents relate to universality,
contains the elements that are not specific for the individual ego nor
resultant from personal acquisition.
Since the unconscious plays an important role in the structure
of the psyche, and, as Jung has said, since it acts in a compensatory
and complementary way with the conscious, it is primarily to this area
that one must turn to grasp the major portion of Jungian theory. Of
particular importance to the understanding of this role of the collec-
tive unconscious is Jung's concept of the archetype. The archetypes
are also of major concern to the comparative technique, for here the
basic patterns of images recurring throughout all literature may be
By wray of definition Jung states that "the human mind possesses
general and typical modes of functioning which correspond to the bio-
logical 'pattern of behavior.' These pre-existent patterns--the
archetypes--can easily produce in the most widely differing individ-
uals ideas or combinations of ideas that are practically identical,
and for whose origin no individual experience can be made responsible.,1
1Jung, Symbols of Transformation: an Analysis of the Prelude
to a Case at Schizophrenia, trans. R.F.C. Hull, The Collected Works of
C. G. Jung, No. 5 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1956), p. 177.
Being at one with humanity, the artist has then a common source
from which to draw his material. Jung further implies that the fictive
process is partly the drawing upon this material and combining it in
such a fashion that it becomes a coherent whole. In many ways this is
analogous to Freud's concept of "secondary elaboration" in relation
to dreamers. In that process, after condensation and displacement have
taken place, the dreamer tends to fill in the missing details from the
fragments of recalled dream images, thus giving the dream a logical
coherency.12 Similarly, for Jung, the artist does not actually create
material, for archetypal constructs are rarely altered; rather, in his
role of "camnbiner" the artist may be said to achieve new and unique
combinations, and it is this achievement that at least partially meas-
ures the extent of his creative ability.
Since these archetypal structures are the source of the artist's
materials, a brief view of their nature has some importance. First,
according to Jung, the language of the unconscious is a "picture lan-
guage," and the archetypes appear in a symbolized picture form. These
symbols, however, are not signs nor allegories; "they are images of
contents, which for the most part transcend consciousness."1 h
problem of interpretation then arises. Since the archetype owes its
existence to primal experience, and since the motives of archetypal
12See Erich Fromm, The Forgotten Lia~gnguag: Intodutio
to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairy Tales and Myths JNew York:
CUrove Press, inc., 1961), pp. 4/ 1.
1Jung, Synbols of Transformation, p. 77.
images are the same in all cultures, then it is through the myths of
these cultures that they can be understood. Actually, the number is
really small, since they correspond to the possibilities of typical
fundamental experiences of all men.
On this score, Jung says, "we are now in a position to establish
certain laws, or at any rate rules, which make dream interpretation
rather more certain. Thus we kn~ow that dreams generally compensate the
conscious situation, or supply what is lacking in it. This .. also
applies to myths. Furthermore, investigation of the products of the
unconscious yields recognizable traces of archetypal structures which
coincide with the myth-motifs, among them certain types which deserve
the name of dominants.,,14 Some of these dominants are: anima, animus,
wise old man, witch, shadow, and earth-mother. A knlowledge of these
types, Jung relates, facilitates myth interpretation by providing points
of orientation hitherto unknown.
Another facet of Jungian theory which is of major concern here
is the concept of individuation or self-realization. For Jung individ-
uation is the goal of all psychological and biological development.
This concept is of primary significance in its application to litera-
ture, and to Hemingway' s works in particular, for it is toward the
goal of individuation that the whole of the heroic cycle is pointed.
Every external conflict in which the Hemingway hero is found is in some
way related to the goal of wholeness, be it conscious or unconscious,
14bid., p. 390.
and the inability of most of the heroes to get beyond one or more of
the phases of the symbolic journey toward self-realization in a large
measure accounts for the mood of pessimism and the themes of alienation
that dominates many of the stories. With such an orientation one is
able to see the significance of many of the activities in which the hero
engages in order to dispel some of the pressures aroused by the environ-
ment in which he finds himself.
Any journey toward individuation is long and dangerous, accord-
ing to Jung, for it implies a direct encounter with unconscious forces.
Jung feels that modern man in Wlestern culture is little prepared for
such an arduous task and that precisely at this point the symptoms of
the plight of the contemporary world may be most clearly viewed. For
him, a decided "split" has occurred between man's conscious and uncon-
scious, causing an inner "war" to rage in normal men. The effects of
this split, he says, are apparent throughout society, and, as two world
wars attest, the danger of the unconscious and irrational getting the
upper hand is everpresent. The ideal is to effect a balance between
the conscious and unconscious, and this ideal is only likely to come
about through some transformative process: in this case, individuation.
Reconciliation of opposing forces is of great import in the
process of self-realization, since only in this way can harmony be
achieved and a dangerous imbalance avoided. Reconciliation, according
to Jung, can only be effected by assimilating the unconscious contents
to the conscious. The way, however, is not easy; ever present is the
danger of total disintegration and alienation rather than the desired
integration. Nevertheless, the individual willing to commit himself
may gain great rewards, for the whole of the experience will result in
an enlargement of the personality and will secure freedom from the
suggestive power of unconscious images.
The interaction of the contents of the unconscious and the
conscious is effected by symbols. They link and reconcile the seemingly
irreconcilable contradictions of the two opposites. These symbols fur-
ther mark the progress of the individuation process, and they are based
on definite and discernible archetypes. Their specific character will
vary and will take shape from the particular conscious situation of the
individual. They may be positive or negative, they may attract or
repel, but they always impose themselves in such a way that the indi-
vidual is forced to deal with them. After a certain stage has been
reached, uniting symnbols appear to point the way toward eventual inte-
gration of the self. These latter are the symbols which point toward
the center of the psyche, the self, and they often appear as figures
of gods, indestructible substances, or as abstract, geometrical designs.
Turning again to the relationship between the creative artist
and the collective unconscious, Jung has said of the artist's powers
to penetrate this realm of the irrational, "Yet, even in our midst,
the poet now and then catches sight of the figures that people the
night-world--the spirits, demons and gods. He kn~ows that a purposive-
ness out-reaching human ends is the life-giving secret for man..
In short, he sees something of that psychic world that strikes terror
into the heart of the savage and the barbarian."15
If the artist is such an individual who can view the "night-
world, and if his mode of expressing the primordial experience "re-
quires mythological imagery to give it form, "l6 then one might define
the peculiarities of myrth that make this possible in much the same
way as Susanne Langer has done: "Myth .. is a recognition of
natural conflicts, of hurran desire frustrated by non-human powers,
hostile oppression, or contrary desires; it is a story of the birth,
passion, and defeat by death which is man's common fate. Its ultimate
end is not wishful distortion of the world, but serious envisagement
of its fundamental truths; moral orientation, not escape."17l If in some
measure we accept the hypothesis upon which Langer's definition is
based, then it may be postulated that the artist, through the use of
image and symbol, couches these natural conflicts in the language of
myth and symbol on the underlying psychological level of his work.
All works of art have at least two broad areas of interpretation
and movement: the surface level, or outward movement with the literal
development of plot, and the psychological level or inner movement,
incorporating imagery and symbol as its primary means of expression.
In Hemingway's works the employment of the journey artifice provides
1Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 189.
1See fn. 10.
17Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key: a Study in the
Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art (New York: Hentor Books, 194)
an outstanding example of these two movements. In his use of the
artifice one may discern the employment of a surface narrative tech-
nique as his simple, mechanical method of furthering plot development,
but one may just as surely discover that the content of the works,
the more meaningful revelation, is far below the surface and lies in
the realm of symbolic allusion. This level points the way to signif-
icant thematic interpretation. From this perspective Hemingway' s
ability to fuse content with form demonstrates the high artistry of
Throughout Hemingway' s fiction there is a vital concern with
the roles that people are expected to play in the central drama of life.
This concern manifests itself in the short stories which deal with the
hero as a young boy. Principally it operates in what may be termed as
an expectancy versus fulfillment complex. That is, individuals have
certain notions derived from many sources about the way particularly
Important personages associated with their lives ought to act and what
they ought to be. Sometimes individuals measure up to the roles ex-
pected of them; most of the time they do not and can not. Hemingway' s
young characters are particularly sensitive at this point. When cer-
tain important personages fail to fulfill the expected role, the result
is an intense inner conflict within the young character, and the reso-
lution of this conflict provides the dynamics of the adjustment process
in the journey toward maturity.
In real-life situations the pattern of development is such that
the result of insight may be disillusionment. This mood may be tempor-
ary or it may be permanent, depending upon the particular circumstances
of the individual involved. For those who remain fixed at this point,
the goal of self-discovery is thwarted before the development has sub-
stantially begun. For those who glimpse the disillusionment implied
by a learning situation and elect to avoid it by reverting to a state
of infantile illusion where such knowledge Is unknown, the end result
is either fixation at that level or postponement of the inevitable. The
complexities of the world and the nature of experience rarely allow the
sensitive individual to remain secluded in infantilism for long, however,
and willingly or unwillingly the individual is eventually thrust into
the world of experience and forced to deal with it. If the individual
is willing to accept the lessons of experience and adapt himself to
contingencies over which he has little control, he can ultimately arrive
at the apotheosis of the journey through experience and achieve the
goal of individuation. If he cannot accept reality as it exists and
remains fixed at some lesser level, he becomes a victim of his own
disorientation and alienation from the processes of life around him.
The development of an individual begins in the nursery, where
he receives his earliest impressions of an external world. At this
stage he receives a lasting impression of the central figures who are
to care for him and guide him through the helpless stage into eventual
maturity. These figures are the mother and father, and the early im-
pressions of them within certain limitations reflect the extent of an
individual's experience with two basic archetypal constructs. These
are in their broader sense the mother and father images, and it is the
vital experience with them that an individual carries throughout life.
On one level an individual thereafter seeks to collate and adjust to
his initial experience in the cradle all future encounters with the
personifications of these mother and father archetypes--girl friend,
mistress, wife, on the one hand, and wise old man, healer, and hero
figures of all varieties on the other.1
One can only guess the extent of Hemingway's knowledge and
interest in analytical psychology as a discipline, but a study of his
treatment of a young boy as the central character in a number of his
short stories illustrates that underlying his artistry there is a per-
ceptive understanding of the machinations of the human mind. Taking
a character at an early age, he depicts his first insights into the
world of experience. Many times these insights are not pleasant for
the character, and many times he refuses to accept as real what he has
viewed. At other times the character will make some minor adjustment
to the experience which may not seem apparent on the literal level.
At any event, throughout the sequence of short stories treating the young
hero, Hemingway constellates the primal conflicts which all men through
all ages have experienced. As such, these stories illustrate Hemingway's
concern with and exploration of the elemental question: "What is the
nature of man's relationship to the cosmos?"
When Hemingway gave the hero of so many of his early stories
the name of "Nick Adams," he was doing more than designating a simple
appellation to stand for a character. Rather, he intentionally used
a charactonym as a conscious device to illustrate what the character
himself would reveal throughout every story in which he appeared.
1Here I follow Jung in a general way. With some difference
in terms, I believe most Freudians would find this compatible with
Yet the employment of such a device is not as simple and surface as it
may seem at first glance, for Hemingway is too much of the artist to
resort to the use of an unsophisticated allegoric device in its most
obvious form. Once viewed in relation to the thematic content of the
stories, the naming of the hero may be seen as full-blown character
taken to its furthest implication.
The surname is particularly appropriate inasmuch as Nick Adams
is in a very real sense an Adam Secundus. He is not in any literal
sense the progenitor of a whole race, but he does typify a whole race
of contemporary men who have encountered irrational elements in their
environment and have been forced to deal with them in one way or
another. In the stories in which Nick is depicted as a young boy,
he is the innocent, sine macula peccati, akin to the first Adam before
the Fall. But as in the biblical story, the state of innocence is
short-lived, and the serpent here too enters the "garden," In this
case, however, the entry is not a blatant caricature of the forces of
evil; it is the subtle coming of awareness of the incalculable events
that disturb the natural order of things, of the caprice in that dis-
turbance, and, what is more important, it is a coming of awareness of
the irrational forces that operate within the self.
Hemingway directly reinforces the implications of the name
"Adam" as incorporating the forces of evil and the chthonic by giving
his hero a first name that might easily be associated with "Old Nick"
or Satan, the archetype of evil. Having thus named his character,
Hemingway in one stroke characterizes the inherited tendencies of
all men. The tension created by the implications of the association of
these names is in itself archetypal in its suggestion of the eternal
struggle between the forces of good and evil. But evil comes in many
guises to the hero in the Hemingway stories, and it goes by many names,
be it a wound--literal or psychological--terror in the night, death, or
anything else; always, however, it is inescapable and unpredictable.
In many ways, it is this that the Hemingway hero must learn throughout
the stories, and the tension created by the struggle with opposing forces
provides the underlying dynamics for the learning process.
Experience itself may be one of the guises of contingent evil.
Just as surely as partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge pre-
cipitated the fall from grace of the first Adam, so for the innocent
the initial encounter with elements foreign to the womb-like existence
in the shelter of home and mother is the first stage of a long and
dangerous journey from which there can be no retreat without catastroph-
ic consequences. It may in some instances appear to the individual in-
volved that retreat or simple negation of the implications of the first
exposure to the apparent disparate experience is possible, but once ex-
posed the individual is automatically committed to the journey through
life by his own nature. To deny this is to postpone the inevitable
necessity of coming to terms with the totality of life processes and to
remain in the realm of infantile phantasy.
In the short story "Indian Camp," the first of the "Nick" stor-
ies of In Our Time, Hemingway illustrates the compelling tendency to
revert to the state of naive innocence once the first contact with
forces outside the protected environment has been made. Here Nick is
a young boy who accompanies his father, a doctor, to an Indian village
in northern Michigan where an Indian woman is to have a baby. Along
with Nick and his father is Uncle George, who, significantly, as may
be seen later, speaks only twice in the entire story. The outcome of
the story is that the doctor must deliver the baby by a Caesarian oper-
ation with a jack-kn~ife and without any anesthetic. The woman's husband
lies in a bunk overhead the whole while, suffering from a severe ax
wound. Apparently unable to tolerate the woman's screams, the husband
sometime during the delivery cuts his throat with a razor.
The surface plot of this story is of little consequence in
itself, however, for the major focus is upon Nick's reaction to the
events. The essential theme of the story and its emphasis upon Nick
becomes clearer when examined in light of the initiatory motif around
which the story is constructed, for it is only in this way that a
seemingly slight interlude with a bizarre ending is revealed as having
more than situational import. In this story Hemingway establishes a
controlling symbol, the Indian camp itself. Here as well as in other
stories the camp is suggestive of the dark side of life, the intrusive
and irrational. element that imposes itself upon the secure and rational
faculties where order and light prevail. For Nick, whose own home is
across the lake, the night journey to the camp has all the possibil-
ities of a learning experience. But he must be prepared to accept the
knowledge it can give him. As it turns out, Nick is incapable of accept-
ing the implications of the events he has witnessed and the initial
preview of the realities of the world is abortive.
Hemingway prepares the reader for the encounter with the dark
forces by employing details of setting suggestive of the mysterious and
other-worldly: "The two boats started off in the dark. Nick heard the
oarlocks of the other boat quite a way ahead of them in the mist. Th1e
Indians rowed with quick choppy strokes. Nick lay back with his father's
arm around him. It was cold on the water. The Indian who was rowing
them was working very hard, but the other boat moved further ahead in
the mist all the time."2] The classical parallel is too obvious to over-
look, for the two Indians function in a Charon-like fashion in trans-
porting Nick, his father, and his uncle from their ownl sophisticated
and civilized world of the white man into the dark and primitive world
of the camp. Hemingway also invokes a conscious contrast in his use of
another classical device, the guide figure. Here, the father takes
Nick along to the camp, and he protectively has his arm around Nick.
In the passage that follows, it is to his father that Nick directs the
meaningful question, another traditional device of the journey artifice:
"Wihere are we going, Dad?" The answer his father gives is indicative
of the protective parental mantle that refuses to allow the child to
directly face certain adult terrors. Rather than tell Mick outright,
the father-guide here attempts to diminish the import of the comingevent:
"Over to the Indian camp. There is an Indian lady very sick" (p. 91) .
2Hemingway, The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1954)i~i-i~7, p 9. it heexepin of "'Two Tales
of Darkness," all future references will be from this edition and will
be cited in the text.
The father as guide figure for the son is to this point of the
story a portrait of a natural and harmonious relationship, and these
two characters remain the central focus of the story. Yet Hemingway
has imposed the figures of the two Indians and Uncle George almost in
thumbnail sketch, and their function is important in the symbolic equa-
tion that is the basic form of the story. In crossing the lake to the
dark side, the Indians control the movement. Uncle George is the shadow
figure of the true guide, although Nick does not recognize this. Uncle
George is in the lead boat in the initial crossing, and smokes a cigar
and gives cigars to the two Indians, reminiscent of the smoking ritual
and symbolizing unity and harmony with the forces represented by the
Indians. Uncle George later becomes emotional over the events during
the delivery, thus signaling his further involvement. Moreover, Uncle
George's telling comment points up the ineptitude of the father as the
man of science and the representative of the rational and civilized
world in his dealings with those dark forces that lie outside his prov-
ince. This commentary occurs after the operation when, as the narrator
relates, the doctor "was feeling exalted and talkative as football
players are in the dressing room after a game." The doctor then com-
ments: "iThatis one for the medical journal, George,' he said. 'Doing
a Caesarian with a jack-knife and sewing it up with nine-foot, tapered
gut leaders."' With telling irony, Uncle George reveals all the inad-
equacies of the doctor in his naive attempt to impose order in a world
of disorder. He tells the doctor, "'Oh, you're a great man, all right'"
(p. 94) .
That the father as a man has not h'unself come to terms with the
irrational and uncontrollable forces at work is made obvious by his re-
action to the suicide of the Indian husband. Wh~en the delivery of the
child apparently is going well, the father--in the guise of doctor-
scientist--gives Nick a step by step account of its progress. At one
point he even tells Nick that the screams of the woman are not impor-
tant. The irony of such a statement becomes clear with the later sui-
cide because of the screams. Wrhen the doctor discovers the death of
the Indian, his control of the situation is lost and he is left with
"all his post-operative exhilaration gone." He tells Nick, "rit was
an awful mess to put you through" (p. 94). In this way the studied
control of the father as doctor and rational man disintegrates, and all
that is left is father as fallible man. In effect, the father has been
stripped of his own protective mask, the doctor-scientist persona, and
he is forced to deal with the situation as a man with an unmasked ego.
Hemingway has further imposed a significant aspect of the theme
of individuation. That is, the hero is constantly forced to adjust in
some manner to the prime manifestations of the irrational: pain and
death in the world. The two father figures here, the doctor and the
"wounded" Indian, are in apposition to each other, but each reacts in
a different way. Both are equally ineffectual, however, a fact which
illustrates their denial of that role. The Indian as a primitive has
no effective method of dealing with the terror created by the scream-
ing wife. On the other hand, as long as Nick's father is in the role
of doctor and performs the rituals assigned to the healer, he assumes
he can cope with and control the forces of life and death. When the
Indian denies his role and function as father by his suicide, the doc-
tor's role as healer is at the same time put in a ridiculous light.
Thus Hemingway illustrates the absurdity of man, in any guise, in his
attempt to control those things which are not in his power.
The figure of Uncle George as a foil to the doctor is further
exhibited in relation to the guise of the father as healer and man of
science. During the delivery when the doctor apparently has the situa-
tion under complete control, Uncle George is bitten by the woman while
trying to hold her down. His response, "'Damn squaw bitch,'" an emo-
tional and uncontrolled one, signifies his ability to respond naturally
to pain. The doctor, in that role, affects an air of detachment in
direct opposition to the responses of the uncle. With the suicide later,
the obvious point of the unreality of such a pose is made.
With the failure of the father to sustain the expected role,
Nick himself reverts to a role of infantile dependence. At the end of
the story, when Nick and his father row back to the other side of the
lake alone and Nick questions his father about the implications of the
events of the night, the regression is pointed up by the fact that N~ick
addresses his father as "Daddy" instead of "Dad" as he had at the begin-
ning. The most telling revelation of the abortive nature of the whole
learning situation comes when Nick asks, "'Is dying hard, Daddy? "
Having witnessed the bizarre events at the camp, the question reflects
Nick's complete inability to grasp the significance of his exposure to
pain and death. Further, by slipping back into the role of the
inexperienced one, Nick thus effects a reconstruction of the father.
Both the denial of the experience--or admission of his insensitivity
to it--and the attempt to recreate the father as man into the infantile
father-imago likeness are sublimated at this point.
Nick' s refusal to accept the terrors of pain and death, and the
father's inability to cope with them, is revealed in an ironic light in
the conclusion: "In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern
of the boat with his father rowing, he [Nick] felt quite sure that he
would never die" (p.95). But Nick has been exposed to some of the pri-
mal terrors of human experience, and his "feeling" is depicted as illu-
sory and child-like in the romantic reaction to the experience he has
undergone. The irony enters in the portrait of the young Nick "sitting
in the stern, implying that he is in control of the boat--events; yet
it is the father who rows, and he has already proven ineffectual for
such a role. The details of setting further point up the irony, for
"the sun was coming up over the hills." In contrast with the events of
the night the sun may seem to dispel darkn~ess, but at the same time it
also foreshadows the coming of night again. Nick's feeling is not a very
strong indicator of coming events.
In "The Doctor and the Doctoris Wife," the second of the "Nick"
stories of In Our Time, the controlling symbol is once again that of
the Indian camp. Here, however, instead of a journey to the camp and
all of the psychological implications of such a journey, representatives
of the camp are summoned across the lake to participate in the sophis-
ticated and civilized world of Nick and his father. Again the locale is
northern Michigan, and the fact that it is the edge of a wildernesss
gives the setting a significance beyond mere backdrop. In this border
zone area, symbolically a meeting place of two opposing forces, Nick
as the young inexperienced one will undergo the initiatory rites which
will eventually project him into the role of young manhood. This site
is the ground of home and parental protection, and here the eventual
severance from this influence must be won. These functions are not
separate and distinct, for on the journey toward individuation the
encounter with the dark powers can only come after complete detachment
from all of the infantile regressive tendencies has been accomplished.
Nick as yet is unequipped to undertake the complete journey to-
ward individuation, but the repeated experience with stark reality and
the cumulative effects of such experience eventually project him into
the greater effort. "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife," whose title
reveals the surface conflict, posits the two diverging axes of the
archetypal nursery drama. The central conflict of the story reveals
a further step in the learning process that Nick undergoes in this
sequence of stories.
The story narrates a short altercation that takes place between
Nick's father and Dick Boulton, a halfbreed from the Indian camp, over
whether or not some beech logs washed ashore from a log boom are to be
regarded as stolen, as Boulton contends, or as driftwood, as Nick's
father assumes. The moral question has some importance, although
Hemingway gives it a secondary place in the story. No one knows whether
the steamer crew will ever return to claim the logs. After Boulton,
his son, and another Indian leave without cutting the logs for the
doctor, the original purpose for which they had come, the doctor with
some restraint tells his wife of the argument and then leaves to go hunt-
ing with Nick.
Dick Boulton as a halfbreed symbolically incorporates the feat-
ures and powers of both the white man and the Indian, the light and the
dark, the knlown and the unknown. In effect he is a border zone figure
and has available knowledge that is denied those who are committed to
one or the other of the opposing regions. As such, in this story he is
a herald figure who by precipitating the destruction of the father fig-
ure is sounding the call to adventure for Nick. The adventure in this
instance may be no more than Nick' s slow movement from childhood to
adolescence, but at any event it is the call to take the first step
toward the greater journey--the journey into self-hood.
The ringing irony of Boulton's function in the story is that it
is the doctor himself who summons this figure from out of the dark land
of the Indian camp. In this way the doctor contributes to his own down-
fall in the eyes of his son. Further, Hemingway intensifies the irony
of the situation by interposing the moral question of whether or not the
logs are stolen. The doctor, as a representative of the society of
which Nick will become a part, and as a supporter of the ethical code
to which that society adheres, is defeated on a question of moral im-
port by a representative of a supposed lower and more primitive level
of culture. Thus not only is the father figure denigrated in Nlick's
eyes but also the very moral framework of his entire society is under-
The argument scene with Boulton is not the central focus of the
story, although it does serve as the catalyst for the ensuing albeit
inapparent nursery drama. This drama as such implies the triadic con-
flict of the child versus both parents in his desire to free himself
from parental domination and achieve autonomy. Hemingway depicts the
effects of this conflict in the second major scene of the story in an
exchange between the doctor and his wife, and in the final scene in an
exchange between the doctor and Nick.
In the second scene Hemingway emphasizes the conflict and points
up the breech between the two parents by injecting an additional irony.
The father as doctor, scientist, or representative of the rational order
of things is juxtaposed to the mother, who is a Christian Scientist.
The irony in the utter divergence of thought between the two is brought
into sharp focus when the doctor returns to the house and tersely tells
his wife that he has had a row with Boulton.
'Oh,' said his wife. 'I hope you didn't lose your temper, Henry.'
'No,' said the doctor.
'Remember, that he who ruleth his spirit is greater than he
that taketh a city,' said his wife. She was a Christian Scientist.
Her Bible, her copy of Science and Health and her Quarterly were on
a table beside her bed in the darkened room.
Her husband did not answer. He was sitting on his bed now,
cleaning a shotgun. He pushed the magazine full of the heavy
yellow shells and pumped them out again. They were scattered
on the bed. (pp. 101-102)
Other than the obvious irony of a physician's wife belonging to a
religious sect which denies the necessity of his professional function,
there are several other levels of consideration here. Th~e reason for
the mother's lying in a darkened room in broad daylight is not given,
but the implication is that she is ill, a fact which further heightens
the surface irony. Iv1ether or not this is the case, however, the detail
serves to illustrate that she is ineffectual in her role as wife and
mother and even as a social entity. As mother-preserver and protectress
of the innocent, she is portrayed here symbolically as languishing in
the womb-like province of her darkened room. As such, she is at once
the fatal or terrible mother figure who would lure her son back to the
womb to be smothered by her protective nature. Thus she would destroy
any possibility of the son ever reaching the goal of self-realization.
In classical literature this feature of the mother archetype is often
depicted by the sirens who lure sailors from their natural course. The
results are identical with the psychological implications for those who
succumb to the call: death upon the rocks. The potion of the mother
here which, like Circe, would turn her men into swine is the opiate of
her romantic refusal to accept the realities of life. When the doctor
tells her he believes Boulton started the argument in order to avoid
paying a past bill, she responds unrealistically, "'Dear, I don't think,
I really don't think any one would really do a thing like that'" (p. 102).
The lure of this wooing mother figure provides one axis--escape to the
womb--of the underlying conflict inherent in the nursery drama.
Hemingway distinctly delineates the abode of the mother and
the region of the father by drawing attention to the psychological
schism with particular literal details as well as symbolic allusion.
After the conversation between the mother and father in which it is
obvious that they are at odds, the narrator relates: "The doctor went
out on the porch. The screen door slammed behind him. He heard his
wife catch her breath when the door slammed. 'Sorry,' he said, outside
her window with the blinds drawn. 'It's all right dear,' she said"
(pp. 102-105). The flat, inexpressive quality implied by the tone of
the dialogue suggests in itself that all is not "all right" between the
doctor and his wife; secondly, the fact that the doctor is "outside her
window with the blinds drawn" symbolically illustrates the alienation of
the father from the womb and the consequent reflection back to the mother-
son-father triadic conflict. Thus the divergent axis of the function
of the father in the drama is illustrated. As guide for the son, the
role of the father is to provide the impetus for the son's projection
beyond the protective presence of the womb into the journey which, in
essence, must emulate that which the father himself has taken.
Nick' s involvement in this interlude is first apparent when
the mother tells the doctor, "'If you see Nick, dear, will you tell
him his mother wants to see him (p. 105). The fact that Hemingway
has her refer to herself in the third person immediately reflects a
peculiarity in her personality, quite literally, as well as a more
serious psychological aberration. In effect, thinking of herself as
a separate entity from the "I" which is speaking accomplishes a deper-
sonalization of her own ego which is illustrative of her complete separ-
ation from the world of reality. It further suggests a desire to
divorce herself from the role of mother, and, on the psychological
level, allows her to reconcile the role of siren-mother to that which
she is conscious of being assigned by the culture of which she is a
part. Thus her role of mother as preserver and protectress and mother
as mistress and siren is made evident by the suggestive imagery and
dialogue. Nick's task is to escape from the temptress who threatens
his development into maturity. He does this. At the end of the story
with his denial of the mother, she becomes the image of frustration and
unrelatedness, wasting away in isolation and solitude. Hemingway thus
correlates her role as temptress-mother with her religious affiliation,
neither of which are depicted as valid for the hero in his epic struggle.
For Nick, standing on the threshold of adolescence and as yet
unable to make any significant break from parental domination, the
possibilities of reconciling what he has witnessed are small. Yet in
the final scene, he does come to terms with the situation. Finding Nick
sitting under a tree, reading--an escape--the father tells him: "'Your
mother wants you to come and see her."' But Nick rejects, "'I want to
go with you,'" and takes the first step by denying escape through mother
while at the same time attempting to reconstruct the father image.
There is a tinge of irony here, though, for in the exchange that follows
Nick is at once deferential, "Daddy," and at the same time commanding:
"'I know where there's black squirrels, Daddy,' Nick said, 'All1 right,'
said his father. 'Let's go there"n (p. 103). In this way Hemingway
illustrates the effect of the total experience upon Nick, for in a sense
Nick has usurped the function of the father in his attempt to recon-
struct him. Now it is Nick who is to be the guide, and significantly
it is to the woods that they are to go. Symbolically, the journey is
toward experience, not retreat to the womb of mother, and this is in
effect a completion of the symbolic equation posited at the beginning
of the story with Boulton sounding the call of adventure for Nick.
The woods are illustrative of the dark qualities represented by the
Indian herald figure, and it is into the woods that Nick is to lead
the fallible father figure in order to restore him.
These early stories preface to a considerable extent many of
the activities in which the hero of the Hemingway stories engages.
In the guise of Nick Adams--the new Adam--and others, the hero must
learn to adjust to the operation of contingent evil in the universe,
to reconcile that evil, and eventually to create for himself a new
moral center in harmony with his own innermost drives. As both of
these early stories illustrate, the tremendous task of discovery, self-
discovery, finally requires the loss of all former attachments that
indicate infantile dependence and a progressive discovery of some aspect
of the self. In effect, the hero must divest himself of all former
ideals along with his former self. Wh~at must follow is the creation of
a new self, and the Hemingway hero learns the difficulty of this task,
as all former heroes in literature have learned before him.
In "Indian Camp" and in "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife,"
Nick is depicted as a young boy on the threshold of adolescence, and
his actions and responses are unemotive and childlike. He reacts rather
than acts in a given situation, and his initiatory experiences are
almost a via negative. Again, this is typical of the young innocent
about to begin the greater journey, but that journey is one that re-
quires a positive commitment to an essentially moral purpose, and it is
toward this end that Nick must move. In the third story of the Nick
sequence--and it is evident that there is a sequence--the title serves
as a rubric to the surface plot as well as to the underlying psycholog-
ical level of the story. "The End of Something" not only indicates
that this is to be a story of termination, but it also poses a question
as to the nature of the "Something."
The story is about Nick and a girl friend, Marjorie, and relates
the events of a night fishing trip the two have taken. Nick has appar-
ently planned in advance that this is to be the finale of their romantic
interlude, for after preparing for the nights fishing and making camp
he tells Marjorie that "It isn't fun anymore." Marjiorie leaves him,
terminating the affair, and Nick's friend Bill arrives as part of the
pre-arranged plan. The story closes with a tinge of irony, for Nick
evidently feels bad about the whole episode.
'Did she go all right?' Bill said.
r Yes, a Nick said, lying, his face on the blanket.
'Have a scene?'
'No, there wasn t anyr scene.'
rHow do you feel?'
Oh, go away, Bill i Go away for a while. '
Bill selected a sandwich from the lunch basket and walked
over to have a look at the rods. (p. 111)
In the final portion of this story it becomes clear that a
definite progression has been accomplished in the development of Nick
Adams from child to adolescent, for with the exhibition of his inner
feelings he has at the same time revealed his sensibility. No longer
is he girded in the armor of protective infantile illusion and detach-
ment; now he takes a positive course of action, and it is he alone who
must bear the brunt of its consequences. What is equally important,
the course of action he has elected to follow is one that will
ultimately alienate him from all external aid. The "Something" that
has come to an end is at one level his belief in the efficacy of roman-
tic illusion, for Hemingway has in this story evolved a symbolic equation
in which the whole of the landscape, the ma-jor characters, and the over-
riding symbol of darkness all point to the termination of an old habit
The pattern which Hemingway chose to depict Nick' s emotive
display of sensibility as a step toward learning is in itself a sig-
nificant illustration of his artistry. Initially he prefaces the
actual story involving Nick with a correlative parable of exploitation
and waste that, in an emblematic fashion, foreshadows the whole of the
coming story. In order to properly view the relationship of this par-
able with the story itself, it is necessary to quote it in its entirety.
In the old days Hortons Bay was a lumbering town. No one who
lived in it was out of sound of the big saws in the mill by the
lake. Then one year there were no more logs to make lumber. The
lumber schooners came into the bay and were loaded with the out
of the mill that stood stacked in the yard. All the piles of
lumber were carried away. The big mill building had all its ma-
chinery that was removable taken out and hoisted on board one of
the schooners by the men who had worked in the mill. The schooner
moved out of the bay toward the open lake carrying the two great
saws, the travelling carriage that hurled the logs against the
revolving, circular saws and all the rollers, wheels, belts and iron
piled on a hull-deep load of lumber. Its open hold covered writh
canvas and lashed tight, the sails of the schooner filled and it
moved out into the open lake, carrying with it everything that had
made the mill a mill and Hortons Bay a town. (p. 107)
This initial vignette prefigures Nick's coming separation from Marjorie.
The exception is that as a man Nick cannot so easily escape the conse-
quences of his acts as could the lumber company. To be noted is the
use of the traditional story-of-the-land device both as emblem and as
a simple method of establishing the mood of the story. The device has
a further importance in relation to the body of Hemingway' s fiction,
for in its more refined form it appears many times, notably in the open-
ing chapter of A Farewell to Arms where it is more precisely interpolated
with the ensuing action.
As the story unfolds, the significance of the appended parable
and its relation to the dominant motif of the cycle of existence becomes
apparent. We are told that "ten years later there was nothing of the
mill left except broken white limestone of its foundations showing through
the swampy second growth as Nick and Marjorie rowed along the shore"
(p. 107). The image of "second growth" is repeated throughout the story
and as a collective image it manifests a symbolic reflection of the
pair of young lovers. They too are second growth, as it were, and as
such they are participants in the great cycle of existence. As the
emblent of the story indicates, the cycle implies a death and waste in
the existing order of things before a renewal may occur. Nick's coming
of awareness is equated with the loss of the mill. That is, the taking
away of the vital machinery that "made the mill a mill," symbolizes
Mick' s loss of belief in the ordered machinations of his childish uni-
verse. The loss he is to suffer is parallel to the loss of the town.
What will remain will be only the marks upon his sensibility, as the
only sign of the mill and town that remain are the marks upon the
Marjorie is unaware of the awakening of consciousness in Nick.
As they pass points in the landscape which to her are indicative of the
romance of life, Nick views them in the light of his newly found sensi-
bility. She sees the remnants of the mill as "'our old ruin,'" or later,
"IIt seems more like a castle.'" Nick either gives a matter of fact
reply or does not answer to these emotionally toned words. Again, when
Nick tells her, "'It isn't fun anymore,"' Marjorie still clings to the
illusion: "'Isn't love any fun?s" Nick's response seemingly reflects
an adolescent inability to articulate his inner feelings, but the irony
of the term "fun" is apparent. Nick as child-initiate is ego-centered
and it is from this too which he must dissociate himself in order to
participate in the activities of an adult world. In the conclusion,
when Nick displays his hurt over the separation from Marjorie, he at
the same time indicates the lesson the experience has taught him: it
isnat any fun without Marjorie either. Hemingway so constructs the
plot that the conclusion reflects back to the correlative parable in
the introduction. That is, Nick cannot neatly pack everything up and
sail off onto the lake as the schooner had done, for the experience
has left an emotional scar not easily healed.
Thle awakening of Nick' s sensibility in this story and his
learning that emotional attachments are not easily severed foreshadows
the thin-skinned sensitivity to hurt that the later heroes exhibit.
Every myth of the hero begins with these calls to adventure, be they
a precise herald figure, vague yearnings within the individual, or
simply an emotional crisis. Regardless of the mode in which this call
manifests itself, however, the pre-journey conditions are present and
provide the apparent motivation for the hero figure. Always behind the
surface circumstance there lies the inward sphere of the hero' s con-
sciousness where a moral conflict must stir, and the outward circum-
stances serve as a catalyst to activate the hero's desire for the quest.
In these early stories, when the young Nick is emotionally disturbed
by his treatment of another individual, the first stirring arise within
him of a moral sense.
"The Three Day Blow" is the fourth in the sequence, and it
considerably expands the characterization of Nick. At the same time it
illustrates a backwash in Nick' s development as the hero in quest of
self realization. In this story Hemingway depicts a boastful, adolescent
Nick. By his actions and attitudes, Nick denies the importance of the
initiation into the evils of the world encountered in "Indian Camp," the
destruction of the father figure that occurs in "The Doctor and the
Doctor's Wife," and finally the insight gained into the cycle of exist-
ence in "The End of Something." The story may be said to be in a very
real sense a story of recapitulation. It is not only a direct comple-
ment to "The End of Something," but also it refers in the attitudes
expressed by Nick to the earlier stories.
Th~is story is complementary to "The End of Something" in that
it takes place not long after the events depicted in the earlier story
and illustrates Nick's reaction to those events. Essentially it is an
adjustment story and relates Nick's coming to Bill's cabin, their talk
of baseball, literature, and Nick's affair with Marjorie. At the con-
clusion, having first decided to get drunk, then having decided not to
get drunk, they go out to find Bill's father and to hunt. The surface
line of action is obviously scant, but that is of little significance.
What is important is th^e revelation of Nick's attitudes toward the
experiences he has encountered and toward life in general.
At the psychological level something quite di'ferent is ex-
pressed from what at first glance seems obvious at the literal level.
Nick here engages in a fantasy of infantile regression and escape within
that regression. This tendency is not unusual in any journey toward
discovery of the self, for the implications of experience with the
forces beyond the control of the individual are terrifying. No one
obviously would choose to destroy himself--an act which is what the
discovery of the self implies--unless under the severest provocation.
Thus it is that all heroes who set out on this journey have at some
point faltered on the way, and Nick Adams is no exception.
In the opening of the story, Hemingway resorts to an express-
ionistic device in order to externalize the inner attitudes of his
central character. It is autumn, the fruit has been picked, and the
wind is blowing through bare trees. Nick picks up a fallen apple
"shiny in the brown grass from the rain." Next he views the idyllic
scene into which he is to retreat: "The road came out of the orchard
on the top of the bill. There was the cottage, the porch bare, smoke
combig from the chimney. In back was the garage, the chicken coop and
the second growth timber like a hedge against the woods behind." Still,
reflected against this idyll there are signs and portents of nature
which point to something other than a retreat for N~ick from his inner
disturbance over the Marjorie affair: "The big trees swayed far over
in the wind as he watched. It was the first of the autumn storms"
(p 1).Nature itself indicates that severance, though it may be
transient--as are the seasons of nature--it is also cyclic. For Nick
this implies that the episode with Marjorie is only one of many coming
hurts that as a man and part of this cycle he will have to undergo.
What is more important to the underlying psychological level
of Nick's development is his turning to a number of escape mechaninsts
to compensate for his inner frustration or guilt feeling created by his
severance from Marjorie. With Bill he indulges in "sophisticated" adult
talk of baseball, literature, the quality of the liquor which they
drink in abundance, and finally the affair with Marjorie. Throughout
this exchange it is always apparent that Nick has progressed to a
level of maturity beyond Bill. Nick has experienced an emotional hurt,
and he exhibits the knowledge he has gained because of it. When they
are discussing a book called Forest Lovers, an obviously romantically
sentimental piece, Bill suggests that it is a good book. Nick, on the
other hand, in a passage reminiscent of Huck' s attitude toward Tom
Sawyer's pirate books in The Adventuresof Hckleberry Finn evinces a
more realistic attitude:
'What else you got I haven't read?' Nick asked.
'Did you ever read the Forest Lovers?'
'Yup. That's the one where they go to bed every night with
the naked sword between them.'
'That's a good book, Wemedge.'
'It's a swell book. What I couldn't ever understand was
what good the sword would do. It would have to stay edge up
all the time because if it went over flat you could roll right
over it and it wouldn't make any trouble.'
It' sa symbol, Bill said.
'Sure,r said Nick, 'but it isn't practical.' (p. 118)
Bill's reference to Nick as "Wemedge" reflects the typical adolescent
posture in its attempt to appear "sophisticated," Rather than depict-
ing poise, however, it pointedly illustrates an adolescent habit of
mind. Nick's "practical" bent, on the other hand, portrays an awakened
mode of thought.
The pivotal point in the narrative comes when the conversation
turns to Marjorie.
'All of a sudden it was over,' Nick said. 'I oughtn't to
talk about it.'
'You aren't,' Bill said. 'I talked about it and now Irm through,
We won't ever speak about it again. You don't want to think about
it. You might get back into it again.'
Nick had not thought about that. It had seemed so absolute.
Thnat was a thought. That made him feel better.
'Sure,' he said. 'There's always that danger.
He felt happy now. There was not anything that was irrevocable.
He might go into town Saturday night. Today was Thursday,
tThere's always the chance,' he said. (p. 124)
Here Hemingway concisely telescopes the optimism that a youghful hero
may hold. To deny the positive insight that a vital experience has
provided is in effect to regress. When Nick thinks that "nothing was
finished" and that "nothing was ever lost," he reverts to the infantile
and illusory attitudes expressed in "Indian Camp," where he felt he
could "live forever." This is not adjustment to the experience--a nec-
essary step toward development; it is rather a denial of the implications
of that experience. Poised on the threshold of illumination, Nick takes
a step backward. He is not capable of crossing the threshold into more
vital experiences as yet.
Having sidestepped the too dangerous movement forward in his
own development toward maturity, Nick further exhibits the regressive
tendencies invoked at the moment of crisis. He and Bill feel "swell,"
and they decide to seek the comfort of adolescent excitement by going
out to hunt. They are not to go alone, however, for they are going to
seek Bill's father, who is already out hunting. Nick in effect seeks
the security of a surrogate father-hero--Bill' s father--and once again
turns to the comfort and security of the protective parental mantle.
Hemingway supports this type of interpretation by so imposing
details of external nature that it is obvious they are complementary
to the central theme of the story. Nick's denial that anything can be
undone--"Yiou can go home again," to distort Wolfe's phrase--is a denial
of the lesson nature teaches. Although the changes of external nature
are cyclic and seem to indicate that spring is not far behind winter,
still to not realize that these are small cycles in the midst of a
greater cosmic cycle of things where change is the very essence is to
misinterpret. Nick here too is guilty, for in the end of the story he
is poised at the peak of his infantile optimism: "None of it was im-
portant now. The wind blew it out of his head. Still he could always
go into town Saturday night. It was a good thing to have in reserve"
(p. 125) .
Hemingway apparently was keenly aware of and much interested
in the inability of youth to accept the reality of a given situation.
In all of these early stories, even though an external narrator relates
the events, it is the youthful Mick's sensibility that is always the
central focus. This was no doubt a conscious focus on Hemingwayrs part
in the construction of the stories, for the tone that dominates these
narratives if not sympathetic is at least not one of condemnation.
The stories deal with a segment of real-life experiences, and the expo-
sure to the variety of forces which operate in the world and over which
man has no control point to an appreciable concern over the relationship
of all men to an external world not of their making. The fact that
many of the stories are complementary to each other, as in the Nick
sequence, illustrates not so much Hemingwayis principal concern with
one generic hero as it does with his intense concern to explore the
various psychological implications of the first, almost primal exper-
iences wsith life.
In the short story, "Ten Indians," which appeared in a later
volume than did the early Nick stories, Hemingway again returns to the
theme that youthful hurts are transient events in the eyes of those who
experience them. The story, a complement to nThe End of Something," in
a sense, has Nick receive the shock of a forced separation from his
girl friend. Thne treatment here is somewhat different, for the whole
story is a study in comic irony. At the outset Mick is returning in a
wagon with some neighbors frcom town, where they have been to a Fourth
of July celebration. En route they have seen nine drunken Indians
lying beside the road. After arriving home, Nick is told by his
father that while walking near the Indian camp he saw Nick's girl,
Prudence Mitchell, an Indian girl, "threshing around" with another boy.
The effect that this has upon Nick is the point of the story.
The comic play of the "Ten Indians" in the title is apparent.
Prudence is the tenth Indian, and the irony evolves from the ride home
with the derogatory remarks made by one of the boys about Indians.
Nick is also teased about the girl, and "felt happy and hollow inside
himself to be teased about Prudence Mitchell." Further irony is
apparent in the girl' s name, for she is anything but prudent. Also,
her name is no more suggestive of her race than of her character.
That it is the Fourth of July, Independence Day, being celebrated adds
additional irony to the ending, for it is Nick's day of independence,
although a freedom of an unwanted sort comes to him.
The tone of this tale makes it impossible to interpret the
"hurt" Nick receives from the affair in any fashion other than that
it is bathetic. Hemingway pushes this bathos to the limit when in the
end Nick lies in bed and reflects: "'My heart's broken,s he thought.
LIf I feel this way my heart must be broken"' (p. 336). Yet in spite
of the treatment, Hemingway still has a more serious point to make than
a mere parody of infantile suffering. In the very next passage, the
tone shifts and the story concludes on a note of seriousness.
After a while he heard his father blow out the lamp and go
into his own room. He heard a wind come up in the trees outside
and felt it come in cool through the screen. He lay for a long time
with his face in the pillow, and after a while he forgot to think
about Prudence and finally he went to sleep. When he awoke in
the night he heard the wind in the hemlock trees outside the
cottage and the waves on the lake coming in on the shore, and he
went back to sleep. In the morning there was a big wind blowing
and the waves were running high up on the beach and he was awake
a long time before he remembered that his heart was broken.
Again, in this final passage, we see Hemingway resorting to images of
nature in order to formulate by symbolic means a correlative in nature
for the transformative or adaptive process taking place in his central
character. Here too, as in "The Three Day Blow," a purificatory wind
signals the cleansing and passing away of old hurts. Yet here too it
is still part of a "storm," and the waves "running high" on the beach
signal a coming psychological storm as well as a natural one. If Nick
has the illusion that he has passed the crisis and that hurt has passed
out of his life forever, he is belied in the final lines. Invoking an
echo of the comic irony sustained throughout the piece, Hemingway
leaves no doubt of the transitory extent of Nick's "adaptation;" and
when Nick is "awake a long time before he remembered that his heart
was broken," he reflects a childish denial of the efficacy of the ex-
perience as a step towards maturation.
Quite important in this story as well as in the early Nick
stories is the relationship between Nick and his father. Here it is
the father who directly confronts the hero with the bitter realities
of the adult or mature world. Functioning in this fashion, the father
performs his natural duty as guide for the infantile son who has been
living in a world of childish romance. In that world everything is
comic, in the broader sense of the term, but in the adult world one
cannot escape from the hurts that are to come, The tenth Indian in
this case is the one who is to force home the consciousness of a dark
world of uncertainty.
Nick' s father in this story performs a further function which
heightens the ambiguity of the role of the guide figure. He ministers
to Nick's needs--feeds him--in a motherly fashion, but he also delivers
the hurt. Thus Hemingwray establishes one more facet of the complex
of father images that appear throughout the short stories. This father
function is not unexpected, for in treating the themes of initiation and
individuation the father figure is of central importance. In the tra-
dition that has its roots in the nursery drama, the father figure is
both helpful and dangerous. His prupose is to help the hero on in his
journey into maturation, while at the same time prohibiting him frorm
regressing into the nursery state. Once the process of maturation has
begun it cannot be retarded for long, as illustrated in "Wiine of Wyo-
ming." There the son of Fantan, a Frenchman, worries about looking
his age, for then he will have to pay for an adult ticket to the movie
theater: "sWhen I go to the show I crouch down like this and try to
look smallr" (p. 453). He is equally worried about gaining his manhood,
and this is illustrated by his wish to hunt alone. Yet he still reads
childish adventure books, signaling his inability to as yet complete
the process of maturation: "'sI want to go in all by myself and shoot
all by myself. Next year I can do it.' He went over in a corner and
sat down to read a book. I had picked it up when we came into the
kitchen to sit after supper. It was a library book--Frank on a Gun-
boat" (p. 456).
In another of the later short stories, "A Day's W'ait,"
Hemingway depicts the father-son relationship in the coming-of-age
cycle. The tour de force on which the plot hinges amply illustrates
the suddenness of adaptation to the trauma of reality. The boy in this
case has the name Schatz, and although seemingly made of sterner stuff
he could still be a Nick Adams in his coming to awareness. In this
instance, the boy is slightly ill with a fever, and, due to a confusion
of the terms Fahrenheit and centigrade, he believes he is to die with
a temperature of a hundred and two. For a full day he lives with this
in mind, and the point of the story concerns itself with his reaction
to this misconception.
In his belief that he is going to die, Schatz undergoes a
complete transformation from child to adult. Hemingway illustrates this
by an ironic reversal of roles. In the opening of the story and before
Schatz finds out about his temperature, he resists going to bed in
typical child-like fashion before finally submitting to the authority
of his father. After he feels he is dying, however, he assumes the
authoritarian role. Wuhen his father tries to read from a book of
pirate stories, Schatz's normal fare, the boy does not listen. When
the father tells him to go to sleep, Schatz says, "Ild rather stay
awake." Finally Schatz tells his father to leave the room, "'If it's
going to bother you."' When the father goes hunting for a cavey of
quail, Hemingway does not depict him as an older person; rather the
father is portrayed more as a young boy thrilling to the adventure of
the hunt. When the father returns to the house after the hunt Schatz
forbids him to come into the room: "'You can't come in,' he said.
'You mustn't get what I have"' (pp. 457-458).
The return to the normal role of child comes for Schatz when
he finds out his error. The adult pose immediately drops and he
reverts to his normal responses. Hemingway illustrates the change in
this manner: "But his gaze at the foot of the bed relaxed slowly.
The hold over himself relaxed too, finally, and the next day it was
very slack and he cried very easily at little things that were of no
importance" (p. 439).
The adjustment of Schatz to the inevitable and his heroic poise
signals a different reaction to experience from that illustrated in the
early Nick stories. Here, too, there is the regressive tendency, but
it comes only after a victory over the inner forces of the self. It
may be pointed out that this story is a later one and that Hemingway
himself might have changed his own attitudes somewhat. Whatever the
cause, a new dimension has been added to the story of the development
of the Hemingway hero: personal inadequacies may be overcome in the
face of pain and death.
In "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen," Hemingway provides a con-
trasting view of Schatz's heroism. A young boy on the threshold of
puberty asks the doctor to castrate him because of "the way he gets."
The doctor cannot convince him that what is happening is part of a
natural process. The boy gives his reasons: "'It is wrong,' said the
boy. 'It's a sin against purity. It's a sin against our Lord and
Saviour'" (p. 304). When the doctor absolutely refuses to castrate
him, the boy leaves and mutilates himself with a razor. The refusal to
accept the stage of puberty at which he has arrived is the extreme of
the via negative. But the analogy of sexual maturity with all of the
processes of life and the eventual facing of death is made. The point
is, all of Hemingway's boy-heroes do not accept contingencies as
Schatz does in nA Day's Wait."
The early stirring of sexuality also furnish the material for
Hemingwayls only story which focuses upon the sensibility of a female
character. In "Up in Michigan," the central character is a young girl
who is introduced to the sexual act. The first stirring within her
of sexuality reveal the difficulties encountered on the threshold of
adulthood and precipitate her first sense of aloneness and isolation.
Her girlish notions of romance are reduced to a mere animal experience:
her first introduction into the nature of reality. After they have
made love, her lover falls asleep in a drunken stupor. The narrative
cites her reactions: "Liz leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
He was still asleep. She lifted his head and shook it. He rolled his
head and swallowed. Liz started to cry. She walked over to the edge
of the dock and looked down to the water. There was a mist coming up
from the bay. She was cold and miserable and everything felt gone"
A still different facet of the coming of age theme is illus-
trated in "My Old Man." Here the plot is concerned with adjustment
in the father-son relationship and, in an echo of "The Doctor and the
Doctor's Wife," pivots on a question of moral import. In this story,
however, even more so than in the earlier one, the outcome is steeped
in pathetic irony and leaves the hero on the plane of development
from which there can be no return. One of the few places in which
the young hero articulates his own plight, there is evident a fur-
thering of the theme of individuation beyond all of the stories
involving the boy-hero.
The story is told in the first person with a boy, Joe, as
narrator. By using this point of view, Hemingway is better able to
exhibit the inner attitudes of the central character and reveal the
pathos of the final learning situation. Further, the story is told in
retrospect, which accounts for the tough, almost bitter tone of the
piece. Such a tone intensifies the underlying conflicts of the story
by illustrating the eventual attitude derived from the experiences.
Thus Hemingway achieves a verisimilitude on two levels which enables
him to project a moral beyond the isolated circumstances of a local
situation in an individual story.
The opening lines foreshadow the coming disillusionment of
the young boy with the father-hero. By the use of suggestive details,
Hemingway coalesces the attitudes of the boy as narrator and the boy
as participant in the action: "I guess looking at it, now, my old man
was cut out for a fat guy, one of those regular little roly fat guys
you see around, but he sure never got that way, except a little toward
the last, and then it wasn't his fault, he was riding over the jumps
only and he could afford to carry plenty of weight then" (p. 191).
The reference to the father by means of the familiar, almost
pejorative expression "my old man" is indicative of a denigration of
the father that has occurred since the time of the events of the story,
and it is a reflection of the atmosphere in which the events have oc-
curred as well. The reference to the father's physical characteristics,
his tendency to become fat, further alludes to his moral stature as
depicted later in the story. The opening phrase, "I guess looking at
it now," reveals the narrator's reluctance to admit the failure of the
father and the consequent disillusionment, even though it is in retro-
spect that he is viewing the experience. This is not surprising. The
narrators age is not given, but the assumption may be made that he is
not yet of an age or level of development at which he is capable of
reconciling the implications of such an admission.
The father in the story is a jockey in Europe, and the narrative
reflects his stage-by-stage moral disintegration. This is paralleled
on the literal level by his progressive inability to perform in his
occupation. The structure of the story is such that the one becomes
the symbolic equivalent of the other. Within the dramatic time of the
story, there is an early foreshadowing of what is to come. The father
must constantly run in a rubber suit in order to keep trim for riding,
and he tells his son it "'is hell keeping it down.'" As the father
begins to lose ground, physically and morally, he articulates his own
plight in a metaphorical fashion: "' This course rides itself. It' s
the pace, you're going at, that makes riding the jumps dangerous, Joe.
WJe ain't going any pace here, and they ain't really bad jumps either.
But it's the pace always--not the jurmps--that makes the trouble"'
The significance of the notion that it is the "pace" that
ultimately defeats a man should not be understressed, for it is one
which recurs in a myriad of ways in much of Hemingwayls fiction. It
is important, too, in any treatment of the underlying attitudes of the
central characters in their quest for some sort of moral orientation
in an unpredictable universe. In another short story called "A Pursuit
Race," for example, Hemingway more precisely employs the metaphorical
connotations of this notion, using it as a controlling device for the
whole story. There the central character is the "advance-man" for a
burlesque show, significantly enough, and must always stay ahead of
the show. When he can no longer stand the "pace," symbolically the
regimen of life, he allows the show to catch him and retreats to a
womb-like existence of dope, liquor, and lying in his bed completely
covered by a sheet. This act, of course, perfectly characterizes the
negative way, and the same impulse to escape from life is manifested
in a variety of ways by a host of other Hemingway characters.
The problem posed in "My Old Man" is of a similar order. The
jockey-father is engaged in a "pursuit race" of his own, for he must
keep ahead of the ominous "fat" which heralds old age and the subsequent
loss of his means of existence. As he slowly loses ground, he cannot
simply accept his impending fate. In a fashion reminiscent of "A Pur-
suit Race," where the central character tells his employer: "'You're
called 'Sliding Billy.' That's because you can slide. I'm just called
Billy. That's because I never could slide at all (pp. 353-354),
the father does not "slide" (adjust); rather, he seeks to postpone
the inevitable by involving himself in fixed races. It is this,
finally, that destroys him as a hero figure for the son.
For a young boy the approach to the realities of existence is
of tremendous consequence; and the destruction of the infantile father-
image is an ultimate necessity for his own progress. Hemingway depicts
this destruction by the use of an underlying irony which summarily
illustrates the tremendous void between infantile illusion and the
harsh world of reality. The process begins early in the narrative
when Joe hears another man call his father a "son of a bitch." Until
this time Joe has thought of his father as a strong figure who could
face any kind of difficulty. Now he begins to find something wrong.
"My old man sat there and sort of smiled at me, but his face was white
and he looked sick as hell and I was scared and felt sick inside because
I kn~ew something had happened and I didn't see how anybody could call
my old man a son of a bitch, and get away with it. My old man opened
up the Sprsa and studied the handicaps for a while and then he said,
'You got to take a lot of things in this world, Joe'" (p. 194).
What Joe has witnessed is fear in his father, and what becomes
apparent later is that the father has become involved in something
illegal and must leave the town. After leaving, their life is never
the same. The father no longer can find work and he resorts to open
illegality. It is not that the boy resents the illegal aspect of his
father's livelihood but that the father has broken the trust placed
in him as a hero in his profession. This altered status begins to come
clear when Joess father bets on a fixed race. Having been present when
the jockey told his father what horse would win, Joe still does not
totally grasp the implications of the situation. Rather, he romantically
involves himself in the outcome of the race by attaching himself emotion-
ally to the horse that is being ridden by the jockey whno gave the tip.
As expected, the horse loses. But, still taken with the thrill of the
race, the boy naively asks his father, "'Wasn't it a swell race, Dad?'"
The father, not realizing the extent of the childish involvement, an-
swers, "'George Gardner's a swell jockey, all right,' he said. 'It
sure took a great jock to keep that Kzar horse from winning' (p. 200).
The boyr s reaction to this revelation is one of forced adjustment
mingled with rationalization. He cannot at this point blame his
father, for that would be to admit the fallibility of the father figure.
The result of such an admission would be an alienation from him and the
resultant loss of the protection of the parental mantle. He does not
reconstruct the father here, as Nick did in an earlier story; rather,
he substitutes a surrogate figure and places the blame there. This
substitution is the occasion of the final irony and pathos of the story.
Of course I knew it was funny all the time. But my old man saying
that right out like that sure took the kick all out of it for me
and I didn't get the real kick back again ever, even when they
posted the numbers upon the board and the bell rang to pay off
and we saw that Kircubbin paid 67.50 for 10. All round people were
saying, 'Poor Kzar! Poor Kzar!r And I thought, I wish I were a
jockey and could have rode him instead of that son of a bitch.
And that was funny, thinking of George Gardner as a son of a
bitch because lId always liked him and besides he'd given us the
winner, but I guess that's what he is, all right. (p. 200)
When Joe can finally condemn the jockey for what he has done,
he has at the same time unknowingly applied the same imprecation to
his own father. George has not done anything that the father had not
already done in Milan. Moreover, the fact that Joe can make a moral
judgment at this point implies that he is on the verge of severing
himself from the father, anyway. For a brief interval in the story
the boy and the father come together after this, but once the father
had been destroyed or defeated he is no longer effective in that role.
In the final portion of the story the father dies. Ironically, he has
died on his own horse trying to win a race legitimately. If the tem-
porary restoration of the father has caused the boy to slip back into
the role of innocent at the knee of the father-protector, the regres-
sion is short-lived. And in the end the ultimate irony is that the
boy is left with a surrogate father in whom he has no faith.
The father substitute in this case is the same George Gardner
that Joe has condemned for pulling the horse in the fixed race. After
the death of his father, Joe overhears two men talking about the father
in such a way as to force him to focus on the pathos of a boy who has
lost the illusions of boyhood:
.'Well, Butler got his, all right.r
The other guy said, 'I don't give a good goddam if he did,
the crook. He had it coming to him on the stuff he's pulled.s
'Irll say he had,' said the other gury, and he tore the bunch
of tickets in two.
And George Gardner looked at me to see if I'd heard and I had
all right and he said, 'Don't you listen to what those bums said,
Joe. Your old man was one swell guy.'
But I don't kn~ow. Seems like when they get started they donry
leave a guy nothing. (p. 205)
This final telling insight into his own plight raises this boy-hero to
a level beyond that which any of the previous boy-heroes have been able
to achieve .
The recurrent appearance of the father figure at an important
juncture in the life of the Hemingway protagonist is of considerable
importance throughout the fiction. Hiis introduction in the early short
stories and in a few of the later ones prefigures the appearance in the
later fiction of another important personage who similarly appears at
important intervals in the protagonist's life. This figure has been
called the "code hero.',3 On one level of interpretation he illustrates
the "code" by which a man might live in an unpredictable universe where
a contingent fate seems to have planted a snare at every quarter. This
personage usually appears as a knowing old man--Count Greffi in A Fare-
well To Arms and Anselmo in For Whmte ell Tolls are outstanding
examples--and always he plays a key role in a fateful or climactic
decision by the protagonist. His appearance in the later fiction in
the guise of a wise old man, as the hero himself grows progressively
older, is not accidental but a conscious part of Hemingwray' s treatment
of the theme of self-discovery which all of the major, central char-
acters undergo. Further, his appearance as the wise old man or helper
figure is a reflection of one of the major archetypal figures to be
found in classic and mythic lore. As an extension of the father imago
thi s figure illustrate s the c ont inuity of the adj us tment- to-fa the r
motif that recurs throughout the stories.
Whenever the hero is a young boy, Hemingway never involves the
plot with complexities beyond the scope of the possibilities of immediate
experience for this character. To be sure, sufficient suggestive sym-
belic detail points to wider themes with a more universal application;
yet the delimitation of plot complexity adds an air of verisimilitude.
By focusing upon a young boy involved in the basic conflicts in which
all men have engaged from the nursery drama to adolescent love, the
3Young, Ernest Hemingway (New York: Rinehart and Co., Inc.,
1952), pp. 28 ff.
boy-hero stories keep a clear and sharp classic outline in their
architectonic formulations. This controlled artistry has nade
Hemingwiay' s name synonymous with this type of prose fiction. When his
imitators seem to be writing parodies rather than imitating, they have
missed at precisely this point. They do not see that Hemingway's fiction
employs an underlying aesthetic sensibility which fuses surface form
with basic human themes of vital conflict.
"The Killers" adequately serves as a transition story in
Hemingway's development of the central character of his stories from
adolescence into young manhood. The psychological implications of that
state are reflected by symbolic allusion and are equated with an intro-
duction into evil. In many ways this story takes as a referent the
biblical story of the fall of Adam, and it relates in a similar fashion
the implications of acquiring a knowledge of good and evil.
In "The Snows of Kilinanjaro," when Harry, the protagonist, is
very close to dying with a gangrenous leg, he tells his wife about
death: "rNever believe any of that about a scythe and a skull,' he
told her, 'It can be two bicycle policemen as easily, or be a bird.
Or it can have a wide snout like a hyena"' (p. 74). In "The Killers"
death comes to Nick in the form of two almost comic gangster caricatures
dressed in tight black overcoats, derby hats, and black gloves. When
the two speak, they do so in a stereotyped gangland jargon: "'You're
a pretty bright boy, aren't you?r" The irony of Nick's introduction
to evil in this guise is that it is this particular serio-comic mani-
festation of evil which prompts him to leave the secure confines of
his home town.
When evil enters the protected world of an innocent person,
he cannot effectively escape it by simply fleeing from the world which
it has entered. The logical extension of this lesson forms the basis
for the irony upon which the thematic contents of this story hinge.
The killers come from Chicago to the little town of Summit, and Nick s
desire to "'get out of this town'" to avoid the knowledge of the sure
death of 01e Anderson is ludicrous. At the same time, however, his
desire to run away is indicative of Nick's immediate adjustment to the
wider implications of knowledge of a world where inescapable evil
operates without apparent check.
There are many signs of Nick's coming break from the local
and protective ground of his youth. Several details point to the
notion that something is all wrong in Nick's world. The place where
the initial action takes place is known as "Henry's Lunch-Room," but
it belongs to a man named George; it is not really a lunch-room but a
converted barroom; the clock on the wall runs twenty minutes fast, a
fact which has some importance since the killers expect Anderson at
six o'clock. In the rooming house Nick mistakes a woman named Mrs.
Bell for Mrs. Hirsch, the owner. Since the length of the story is
about three thousand words, these details take on a sharpened focus
that cannot easily be overlooked. Nor does Hemingway intend them
to be, for they serve as a suggestive background of details which are
symbolic of a world that is "out of joint." Hemingway uses his con-
ventional device to heighten suspense and foreshadow the coming events
which force Nick to finally leave the familiar ground and begin the
journey toward self-hood.
T. S. Eliot has illustrated the same sort of conditions in
"The Waste Land."
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sn er and snarl
From muderacked houses.
One would not want to make too much of the waste-land theme here; yet
the fact is that Hemingway depicts a boy on the threshold of adult-
hood, and the patterns of motifs within the psychology of such an
individual are identical withthose of mythological lore. In a situa-
tion which parallels the waste-land, the boy as a true hero must per-
form a heroic task, and this must spring from a moral impluse, When
Nick cannot stand the thought of the fate of Anderson, this impulse is
brought into play. If his decision to leave the town is prompted by a
youthful repulsion at the thought of death, it is just as much a posi-
tive impetus that activates him as it is a childish desire to escape.
The hero himself must be willing to meet the trial of overcoming the
powerful forces that isolate him from contact with the real world.
Nick does respond at one level, but the irony lies in the fact that his
flight away from himself is really one toward discovery of himself.
This course of an individual response, like all attempts to
achieve individuation, is long, dangerous, and tedious, and the hero
has many levels of development through which to pass. Hemingway
lT. S. Eliot, "The Waste Land," The Complete Poems and Plays
(New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1952!), 11. 340-345.
depicts only the articulation of the desire to separate from the
involvements of the protected sphere. What any hero must do, however,
is to relate and reconcile external phenomena to his own inner plight.
In this respect, as Joseph Campbell has said, the first work of the
hero is to "retreat from the world scene of secondary effects to those
causal zones of the psyche where the difficulties really reside, and
there to clarify the difficulties, eradicate them in his own case.
and break through to the undistorted, direct experience and assimilate
what C. G. Jung has called the archetypal images."
This account of the psychological reverberations in an individ-
ual may seem too far from the point at hand, but its relevancy may be
more clearly seen when the story is viewed as an extension of the motif
of the nursery drama, Here, just as in the Biblical account of the Fall,
all the central symbols of the archetypal construct are employed. Just
as the child must overcome certain forces which would contain him or
restrict his development, so the adolescent faces similar restrictive
factors in his attempt to reach the next stage of the maturation process.
That the story is an extension of the nursery drama is evident from the
roles assigned to the main characters. There is here the same ineffect-
ual father-hero figure of the boyhood stories--01d Anderson; there is
the same "nay-saying" romantic refusal to become involved in the sit-
uation, typical of the mother figure--the negro cook; and there is the
arbiter guide figure--George, the owner of the lunch-room. When the
eCampbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 17.
two killers enter the scene and force certain reactions and responses
from these characters, an obviously symbolic interlude is activated.
After the two killers have left the lunch-room, the characters
directly reveal their functions. Significantly the cook, who performs
the female function of feeding, responds first: 'Il don't want any
more of that.r" Nick, on the other hand, not yet fully aware of the
ramifications of the experience takes the adolescent pose: "Nick stood
up. He had never had a towel in his mouth before. 'Say,' he said.
'What the hell.' He was trying to swagger it off." At this point Nick
still sees a certain amount of movie-thriller romance in having been
tied up by movie-like gangsters. Hemingway has prepared for this by
having one of the killers tell Nick earlier: "'You ought to go to the
movies more. The movies are fine for a bright boy like you.'" At this
point, however, since it all seems to turn out all right, Nick reflects
an attitude which indicates he feels the incident has no further import
than the immediate situational discomfort. But George gives Nick an
insight into the full implication of the visit of the killers: "rThey
were going to kill Old Anderson, George said. 'Th~ey were going to
shoot him when he came in to eat'" (p. 285).
When Nick decides to warn Anderson, at George's suggestion, we
again see the cook functioning as the wooing mother-surrogate who would
keep the child from acquiring the knowledge of the world that will
force the separation from the protective fold.
'You better not have anything to do with it all,' Sam, the
cook, said. 'You better stay way out of it.'
'Don t go if you don't want to,' George said,
'Mixing up in this ain't going to get you anywhere,' the
cook said. 'You stay out of it.'
'I'll go see him,r Nick said to George. 'Where does he live?r
The cook turned away.
'Little boys always kn~ow what they want to do,' he said.
He lives up at Hirsch' s rooming-house, George said to Nick.
'I'll go up there.' (p. 286)
Nick denies the efficacy of the advice which would protect him and keep
him from the impending hurt. The guide he follows is George, who in a
matter-of-fact fashion pushes Nick on into the further experience. This
experience will give him insight into the far-reaching effects of the
presence of the seemingly "comic" killers.
Apparently Nick images the figure of 01e Anderson as having
all the accouterments of the athlete-hero. As such, Anderson reflects
in this role the attributes of the traditional culture hero who sum-
marizes the aims and attitudes of the whole culture. In this way he
further symbolizes all authority figures or leaders, and his actions
are representative of the tendencies of all members of that culture,
But something is wrong with Anderson: "I guess he don't feel well,"
Mrs. Bell tells Nick. Lying in his bed awaiting his fate and appar-
ently incapable of any positive action to avoid it, Anderson exhibits
the qualities of the traditional wounded hero-king. The adolescent
Nick hurrying to the chamber of the sick hero is a perfect parallel
to the hero in the traditional Grail stories.
The possibility of restoring the "King," 01e Anderson, in this
instance is an illusion. Hemingway portrays this in a sequence of
exchanges, which also point up Nick' s still adolescent najlvete/. Nick
believes that one can do something about his plight, and he cannot
readily accept Anderson's refusal to act. Wlhen Anderson says, "'There
isn't anything I can do about it,'" Nick cannot believe him. "ll
tell you what they were like,'" Nick suggests. But Anderson doesn't
care, and Nick tries to suggest remedies for a situation that for
Anderson in his state of mind has no remedy.
rDon't you want me to go and see the police?
'No,' 01Oe Anderson said. rThat wouldn't do any good. r
'Isnst there something I could do?'
'No. There isn't anything to do.'
'Maybe it was just a bluff.'
No. It ain' t just a bluff .
'Couldn't you get out of town?r
'No,' 01e Anderson said, 'I'm through with all that
running around. r
He looked at the wall.
'There ain't anything to do now~.'
rCouldn't you fix it up some way?'
'No. I got in wrong.' He talked in the same flat voice.
'There ainst anything to do. After a while 1111 make up my mind
to go out.' (pp. 287-288)
The exchange between Nick and 01e Anderson serves to illustrate
dialectically the education of Nick Adams the adolescent. As the old,
"wounded" hero, 01e Anderson catalogues for Nick the precise short-
comings of all possibilities of action. Flight, police authority,
"fixing, all are possibilities tried and tested by the old hero in
past experiences and proved ineffectual. He is the experienced one
who has taken the journey in the past and knows the answers. As such,
he is the imago of the father and at the same time the portrait of
what the young hero himself might become.
Ironically, Nick's final response to the whole affair, "'Im
going to get out of this town,"' is the reflex of what Anderson has
revealed to him in the previous dialectic of learning. The Swede,
having tried or considered all methods of escape from the inevitable,
accepts his fate and will soon "make up his mind" to go out. But as
the "sick" hero fixated at a level of inaction, he does not accept
final reconciliation and atonement with death. Rather, his is a nega-
tive response to death. It is this attitude of Anderson's that reveals
him as a hero who has failed because of some personal inadequacy. The
still young Nick elects flight because to vicariously experience the
same fate as that of the Swede is "too damned awful" for him at his
level of development. Thus he illustrates his refusal to accept the
inadequacies typified by the Swede. He is not able to accept the
stoical matter-of-fact adjustment represented by George, either, and
he must elect another way. The course he does choose is the seemingly
protective one of the dark, hermaphroditic mother-guide figure of the
cook who wontnt even listen to it.'" But the collective forces of
experience will not leave Nick unscarred, of course; if he thinks to
elude the inevitable by leaving, Hemingway leaves no doubt that he
cannot. Just as the killers have come into this sphere from that
beyond, so Nick will encounter identical forces in his flight. What
has happened in this experience might prove to be the needed stimulus
to project Nick onward toward further learning experiences.
Hemingway explores the plight of a Nick Adams who has made the
decision reached in "The Killers" in two other short stories, "The
Battler" and "The Light of the World." Both of these stories depict
a character who has left the town of his upbringing and is in flight
from the experiences of his youth. And both of the stories are
significant in the whole of Hemingway' s treatment of the learning
experience of his central character. If the young hero has had his
sensibility scarred by the experiences of youth in the protective
environment of home, then these two episodes in his flight are demon-
strative of a further and more serious introduction into the machina-
tions of the world. Here is revealed a world of nightmarish experience
where things are amiss, and both stories illustrate to some extent a
desire to recover a world where the comfort and security of the lost
home and mother are established.
In "The Pattler, Hemingway revolves the plot around the motif
of "the promise given and the promise withdrawn." This device force-
fully points up Nick' s alienation from the protective sphere which
implies, romantically, that all promises given will be fulfilled.
Further, the operation of the motif is intensified by the contrasting
light and dark symbols which form the opposite poles of attraction and
repulsion in the middle-ground on which the hero finds himself.
Nick's first introduction into a world where promises are
not kept forms the early coincidence of his involvement in the central
drama by the fireside of a punchdrunk ex-fighter and an apparently
homosexual Negro. In the opening scene, having just been thrown from
a train, Nick stands near the railroad tracks with his trousers torn,
his kn~ees skinned, and his hands scraped.
That lousy crut of a brakeman. He would get him some day.
He would knoaw him again. That was a fine way to act.
rCome here, kid, I got something for you.'
He had fallen for it. What a lousy kid thing to
have done. They would never suck him in that way again.
'Ccme here, kid, I got something for you.' Then wham and he
lit on his hands and knees beside the track. (p. 1E
This first instance serves to reveal Nick's discovery that a simple,
childlike response will not serve in relationships with individuals
outside of the protected family circle. Also, the brakeman is one of
a long list of authority figures who does not fulfill the expected role
for the innocent. Even the language Hemingway uses here is suggestive
of the infantile relationship: "1Come here, kid, I got something for
you, '" echoes some sort of offer of candy or some other desirable ob-
ject that a child might expect to be given by an adult. The result
here has an effect far more significant than Nickis being thrown from
a train, for the brakeman's action cuts to the quick of Nick's childish
response. What Nick feels here is shame and mortification at having
been lured by the authority figure into playing the role of the child.
Nick's vow that "they" shall never do it to him again illustrates his
adolescent anger rather than a true learning experience, however, for
in the very next scene he again becomes the victim of the same kind
The second instance of the promise given and Nick's ready
acceptance of such a promise from another authority figure precip-
itates the more profound learning situation for Nick. Walking along
the tracks Nick sees a fire off in. the darkness. Hemingwiay invokes
certain traditional symbols at this point, for Nick is walking easily
and solidly along the tracks, suggestive of the motif of "The W~ay."
In mythology, as in Pilgrim's Progress, this signifies the tried and
proved path. As long as the hero adheres to it he is protected by
benevolent forces. Alongside the tracks there is a swamp, another
traditional image. In mythic terms it is representative of the laby-
rinthian passages of the unconscious and irrational. Whenever the hero
is lured from the tried and proved pathway the dangers symbolized by the
swamp threaten to swallow him and to terminate his journey into self-
discovery. The same sort of symbolic interplay operates here, for when
Nick, hungry and tired, sees the firelight just off the tracks in the
swamp the temptation is too great: "He must get to somewhere." Yet
Nick is only a few miles from a town, Mancelona, and if he continues
along the true pathway he will soon be out of the swamp. Just as
Pilgrim in his journey strayed many times from the path, however, so
Nick does here and the consequences are not greatly different from
those related in Pilgrim' s Progress.
With the lesson impressed upon him so recently by the brakeman,
Nick approaches the fire carefully. He soon drops his guard--a child-
ish regression--and it is in this way that the lesson not totally
learned from the train experience is more subtly taught him again. At
the fire Nick finds the degenerate ex-prizefighter Ad Francis, who
offers him hospitality and food. The initial exchange between the two
is indicative of a kind of adjustment to the world which refers back to
Nick's earlier response to the brakeman.
'It must have made him feel good to bust you,' the man said
'I'll bust him,'
rGet him with a rock sometime when he's going through,'
the man advised,
'I'll get him.'
'You're a tough one, aren't you?'
'No Nick answered.
'All you kids are tough.'
'You got to be tough, Niick said.
'That's what I said.' (p. 151)
As in "The Killers," Hemingway employs a short dialectical discourse
between an authority-hero figure and the young Nick to illustrate a
possible adjustment to the circumstances of the world. The credo of
adjustment postulated by Francis and repeated by Nick--tough, tough,
tough--is often thought to be the dominant attitude held by all Heming-
way heroes in all situations. This story amply illustrates that it is
not, for Hemingway interjects a foreign element which forces a recon-
sideration on Nickrs part of Francis' answer to the problems of the
W~ith the preparation of the food by Bugs, Francis, who has
already asked Nick if he was hungry, begins to "change"--a signal of
his chronic illness. He soon becomes irrational and challenges Nick.
'You're a hot sketch. Who the hell asked you to butt in here?'
'You're damn right nobody did. Nobody asked you to stay either.
You come in here and act snotty about my face and smoke my cigars
and drink my liquor and then talk snotty. Where the hell do you
think you get off?'
Nick said nothing. Ad stood up.
'Ir11 tell you, you yellow-livered Chicago bastard. You're
going to get your can knocked off. Do you get that?' (p. 135)
TIhe withdrawal of the promise and the threat of personal violence points
to an important learning experience for Nick. As the athlete-hero,
Francis functions in somewhat the same manner as Anderson in "The Killers":
his "sickness" adumbrates the cultural plight of a whole civilization in-
to which Nick is being thrust. The features of Francis directly portray
the inner state of degeneracy: "In the firelight Nick saw that his face
was misshapen. His nose was sunken, his eyes were slits, he had queer-
shaped lips. Nick did not perceive all this at once, he only saw the
man's face was queerly formed and mutilated. It was like putty in color.
Dead looking in the firelight." And whiat is more, Francis has only one
ear, a fact which makes Nick "a little sick" (p. 151) The distortion
of the fighter's features prefigure exactly what Nick learns about him
and is a distant extension of what Nick learned about the Swede.
Francis too is "sick," and his sickness is both physical and moral.
Nick's nausea over the disfigurement of the fighter and his subsequent
insight into the moral plight of this hero figure is similar to the
reaction of many of the central characters of the stories. Sometimes
they can articulate what they feel about the sordid moral state of the
sick or pseudo hero, and usually they feel as the narrator of "The
Mother of a Queen" does toward the homosexual bullfighter. He asks,
"WJhat kind of blood is it that makes a man like that" (p. 419)? At
his stage of development, Nick can only feel a sense of uncertainty
and repulsion. But the insight the encounter with Bugs and Francis
provides at least paves the way for a later, conscious awareness of
In a symbolic frame of reference, as the sick hero Francis is
also the ogre figure with whom Nick must do battle on the threshold of
maturity. In this sense he is symbolic of the father-authority who is
both the helpful guide and the dangerous presence guarding the entrance
into the unknown. The fighter here stands as the father who has in the
past held out the promise to the hero as a child, but who withdrew the
promise when the child would remain fixed at the infantile level.
The ironic function of the fighter is more clearly seen in this instance
when the details of setting are taken into account. The whole of the
drama takes place around a fire, a conventional symbol of light and
hope; here, however, the events that take place are suggestive of
violence and evil and the traditional usage is inverted. When Nick
comes out of the night just "wounded" from his ordeal with the brakeman,
he is duped into expecting comfort and sustenance by the campfire.
But that promise is withdrawn and he is forced to continue on his
journey without the aid he had anticipated.
At the fireside Bugs gives Nick a sandwich to help him along
the way, and here a further irony is revealed. Functioning in much
the same fashion as the cook in "The Killers," the Negro here is the
cook and soother, the hermaphroditic figure who resembles the mother.
He controls the situation at all times, in spite of his deferential
treatment of both Francis and Nick. The fact that he is dark, however,
signals the danger inherent in the nature of such a figure. His appar-
ent homosexuality gives further credence to his changling nature as well
as pointing to the dangers of the personage who indulges in activities
which are contra naturam. Steeped in ambiguity, this figure reveals
both a dangerous nature--he "changes" Francis by tapping him at the base
of the skull with a black~jack--and a protective one--he tells Nick to
leave, giving him directions and food.
In this dual role the Negro is typical of the herald figure
drawn in sharp outline form, and he conforms to Joseph Campbell's
description of the herald figure: "The herald or announcer of the
adventure, therefore, is often dark, loathly, or terrifying, judged
evil by the world; yet if one could follow, the way would be opened
through the walls of day into the dark where the jewels glow. Or the
herald is a beast (as in the fairy tale), representative of the re-
pressed instinctual fecundity within ourselves, or again a veiled mys-
terious figure--the unknown."3 It is Bugs who saves Nick from the en-
counter with Francis and prevents Nick from remaining at this lesser
level of development. Defeat by the authority-father figure would mean
that the hero has not yet reached the point of development required
for the journey he has already undertaken. Bugs steps in at this point
as the helper figure and the catastrophic results of a defeat are avoided.
Involved in this symbolic interlude by the fireside are other
associative connotations which reinforce the thematic implications of
the "promise withdrawn" motif. The disfigured hero represented by
Francis is part of a whole series of wounded or crippled heroes that
appear in Hemingway's fiction. The general consensus has been, as
Philip Young has pointed out, that the external hurt is "an outward
and visible sign of an inward dis-grace [sic)."4 Also, William Bysshe
Stein has observed: "The Freudian roll call of symbolic phallic wounds
in his works is interminable. Nick is injured in the leg and Robert
Jordan in the thigh. Harry in "The Snows of Kilamanjaro" dies of a
BCampbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 53.
4Young, Ernest Hemingway (New Yorkt: Rinehart and Co., Inc.,
1952), p. 15.
gangrened limb; Colonel Cantwell wears a scar on his knee; Harry Morgan
in To Have and Have Not loses an arm; Lieutenant Henry in A Farewell To
Arms and Jake Barnes in The Sun Also R~ises are comparably afflicted."5
But along with signifying an outward token of an inner attitude and of
being suggestive of emotional hurts, the symbolic wound is a cipher
which takes as its key the manifold, cognate myths of crippled heroes.
It is only by apprehending this function that the frequent occurrences
of the wound may be seen as integral parts of a basic theme.
The significance of the wounded hero takes on a new dimension
when viewed in the light of the broader motif of the crippled hero.
Jacob, Christ, Paul, Oedipus, and Samson, to mention only a few obvious
examples from biblical and classical sources, all are part of a series
of redemptive heroes who were crippled or abandoned in some fashion in
their particular struggles with contingent forces. The motif has been
described by James Clark Moloney, and he indicates some of the main
configurations of its workings.
Th~e crippled, rejected hero is a unique concept. The vicissitudes
of the hero' s life have been sung in the sagas of almost every
culture. There is an attention-riveting quality about this hero.
No matter from whence he came, this ubiquitous male was stereotyped.
Almost always his birth has been predicted. The hero was born to
save mankind. Frequently he was the son of a virgin. If not the
son of a virgin, then the hero's father was a god. Rather univer-
sally a jealous person in power--an uncle, father or grandfather--
attempted to kill the hero. To escape this menace the hero was
separated from his family. He was reared by strangers in a strange
land. These heroes were crippled as well as abandoned. Finally,
'illiam Bysshe Stein, "The Dialectic of Hemingway' s Short
Stories." An unpublished manuscript to appear in The University of
Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Summer (1961).
the hero's day of destiny arrives. The hero returns and kills the
brutal ruler, or the hero, after an upsurge of activity is himself
killed. The hero's death is often a scapegoat death, serving the
utilitarian purpose of perpetuating life. (Leviticus, Chapter 16,
Verses 5-10). After he is dead, the hero returns to the earth
that ~ften rejuvenates him, effectuates his rebirth or resurrec-
Whnat these parallels illustrate here is not so much that Hemingway
evolved a conscious plan to depict a redemptive hero, as to point out
that the outstanding devices of his major fiction are part of a univer-
sal pattern of motifs. When these devices are viewed, certain not so
obvious undertones appear.
What Nick sees that makes him "a little sick" is literally that
Francis has only one ear, but what he has experienced by the end of
"The Battler" leaves him somewhat confused. The experience teaches
him that the answer he thought he had at the beginning--be tough--ic
not valid in all situations. His final view of the ex-prizefighter
directly contradicts what he had been led to expect from the athlete-
hero. If Francis bears the signs of the redemptive hero, he more
pointedly personifies the unredeemed hero. Francis is caught in the
swamp of a labyrinthian night-world from which there is no possible
escape. In this respect, he is much like the Swede in "The Killers,"
who is in a similar trap. The dark conductor, Bugs, has led him into
the swamp, but, as in all heroic cycles, it is not the conductor who
is at fault for the hero's plight. As Bugs tells Nick, Francis has not
6James Clark Moloney, "The Origin of the Rejected and Crippled
Hero Myths," The American Imago, XVI, Winter (1959), 276.
only taken too many beatings but was involved in an incestuous affair,
squandered all his money, and took to "busting people all the time."
His alienation from all social intercourse is a logical extension of
his own inner difficulties. He is held prisoner, therefore, by the
shadow figure of Bugs, who by further extension is representative of
the repressed and irrational side of his own self. The guilt of his
incest and all the scarring experiences--beatings--he has suffered are
what really hold this hero in bondage. Nick, as the hero-becoming and
the young man on the journey toward self-learning is presented with a
perfect example of the hero who has failed in the quest.
It is not Hemingway's purpose in these short stories to relate
the final outcome of the learning experiences Nick undergoes. Rather,
the purpose is more to dramatize the learning experiences themselves
and to suggest by symbolic detail the impact they have upon the central
character. By the end of this story it becomes obvious that the title
not only refers to the ex-prizefighter but more pointedly to the young
Nick, who is actively engaged in a greater battle than any prizefighting
arena could provide. "The Battler" here refers directly to the process
of maturation Nick is undergoing, and the particular situation depicted
is only one of the many that he will encounter throughout life.
As in "The Killers," in "The Light of the Wlorld" Hemingway
employs an assortment of serio-comic characters in a burlesque inter-
lude to explore the serious implications of Nick' s further exposure
to the experiences of the world. The title is excerpted from the New
Testament story of Christ's encounter with the woman taken in adultery.7
7See Stein, "The Dialectic of Hemingway's Short Stories."
When Christ disposes of the arguments of the scribes and Pharisees
He remarks: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall
not walk in darkn~ess, but shall have the light of life (John 8:2-12)."
Viewed in this context, the title has a multiple significance in rela-
tion to the major thematic emphasis of the story.
The situation depicted is one in which Nick is again at large
in the world. Nick is accompanied by a friend, Tom, who serves as a
register against which Nick's responses may be tested. Both are young
men who have just arrived in a strange town. The place is unusual,
and upon their entrance the first encounter with a townsman, a bar-
tender, is answered with hostility. Here, too, as in "The Killers, n
there is something amiss. Tom senses this and remarks at one point,
"'What the hell kind of place is this"' (p. 385). After their encounter
with the barman, they go to the train station where they meet an un-
likely aggregation: "Down at the station there were five whores wait-
ing for the train to come in, and six white men and four Indians"
(p. 385). Again, there is something wrong. Nick, the narrator of this
piece, suggests: "It was crowded and hot from the stove and full of
stale smoke. As we came in nobody was talking and the ticket window
was down" (p. 385). With the entry of Nick and Tom, the atmosphere
changes somewhat. What follows is a curious parody of the traditional
naffirmation of the faith," in which two of the whores describe their
more than close relationship with the fighter, Stanley Ketchel.
The exposure is to an abnormal situation which has the aura
of the normal, and there are two major movements in the story which
serve to focus upon the impact of this experience. The details of
setting and the responses of the barman in the first portion of the
narrative prefigure the underlying implications not readily apparent
in the second. Tom is apparently the more experienced of the two
boys, and in the exchange that takes place in the barroom it is he that
is the active participant. The bartender decides to serve them only
after he has seen that they have money, and Tom who earlier had been
stopped by the bartender from eating the free-lunch pig's feet,
angrily responds to the bartender's hostility and suspicion. Nick,
on the other hand, acts in a more level-headed manner and tries to
soothe the situation.
'Your goddam pig's feet stink,' Tom said, and spit what he
had in his mouth on the floor. The bartender didn't say any-
thing. The man who had drunk the rye paid and went out without
'You stink yourself,s the bartender said. 'All you punks
'He says we're punks,' Tommy said to me.
'Listen,' I said. LLets get out.Y
'You punks clear the hell out of here,P the bartender said.
'I said we were going out,' I said. 'It wasn't your idea.'
'We'll be back,' Tommy said.
'No you won't,l the bartender told him.
Tell him how wrong he is, Tom turned to me.
'Come on,' I said. (p. 385)
In the second portion of the story Nick begins to participate
in the action more aggressively, and in the conclusion the point of the
story is illustrated by the degree of his involvement.
Alice looked at her and then at us and her face lost that hurt
look and she smiled and she had about the Drettiest face I ever
saw. She had a pretty face and a nice smooth skin and a lovely
voice and she was nice all right and really friendly. But my
God she was big. She was as big as three women. Tom saw me
looking at her and he said, 'Come on. Let's go.'
'Good-bye,' said Alice. She certainly had a nice voice.
'Good-bye,' I said. (pp. 390-391)
Nick has earlier told one of the men in the station, a homosexual cook,
that his and Tom's ages are sseventeen and nineteen.'" Since he is
the speaker, it may be assumed that the first figure refers to himself.
This is of importance to the characterization in the story, for here
it is Tom, as the older more experienced one, who urges Nick away from
the hint of temptation suggested by Nick's "looking" at Alice. Thle
initial situation with the barman is reversed, for now it is Tom who
withdraws. An examination of the underlying symbolic drama which
formulates the dynamic configuration of this story illustrates the mean-
ing of the reversal of roles.
The whole of the central force of the interlude at the train
station takes as its motif the burlesque elevation of Stanley Ketchel,
a prizefighter, into the role of an imitatio Christi. Once again, as
in "The Killers" and "Tie Battler," Nick is given the measure of a
counterfeit hero in the role of the perennial, redemptive hero. Here
too it is not immediately evident that he is being told the tale of
such a personage, for Hemingway has so devised the valuation that the
absurd attitudes of the prostitutes seem at one level to have validity.
The repetition throughout of allusions and direct references
to deity charges the burlesque situation to such a point that the whole
scene is transformed into a kind of absurd Walpurgis Night. Nick as
the young would-be initiate views the attestation of faith and renewal
of vows of two whores to the arch-god of physicality represented by
Ketchel. Their physical proportions and subsequent conversation suggest
that they are embodiments of the Seven Deadly Sins--pride, covetousness,
lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. The mediator-priest present
here is the homosexual cook--"his face was white and his hands were
white and thin"--and he plays his role throughout: "'Can't you stop
that sort of thing?' the cook asked. 'Canet we speak decently (p. 588)? "
Ironically enough, in a complete reversal of the conventional
usage of black and white imagery, the mock "white-Christ" has been
defeated by a Negro. One of the prostitutes recounts the story of
the defeat, and her telling enforces the burlesque character of the
'It was a trick,' Peroxide said. 'That big dinge took him by
surprise. Herd just knlocked Jack Johnson down, the big black
bastard. That nigger beat him by a fluke.'
The ticket window went up and the three Indians went up to it.
'Steve knocked him down,' Peroxide said. 'He turned to smile
'I thought you said you weren't on the coast,' some one said.
'I went out just for that fight. Steve turned to smile at
meand that black son of a bitch from hell j) umped up and hit him
surprise. Steve could lick a hundred like that black bastard.'
The ironic reversal of the conventional "white equals good, black
equalsbad" formula adds verisimilitude to the apparent seriousness of
the character in her description of the fight. For her Ketchel rep-
resents the forces of "good," and his defeat by Johnson is indicative
of the operation of satanic forces. The whole incident as she describes
it is a direct parallel with Christ's struggle with Satan in the desert,
only the pseudo-Christ is defeated in this account.
Another detail which Hemingway imposes to add further to the
parallel is the reference made by one of the prostitutes:
"'Steve Ketchel,' one of the blondes said in a high voice as though
the name had pulled a trigger in her. 'His own father shot and killed
him. Yes, by Christ, his own father. There aren't any more men like
Steve Ketchel'" (p. 388). The reference here suggests the Crucifixion
and Christ's appeal to God, His father. Other references throughout
further substantiate the device Hemingway has employed: "'He was
like a god, he was'" (p. 389), and "rHe was the greatest, finest,
whitest, most beautiful man that ever lived, Steve Ketchel, and his
own father shot him down like a dog (p. 388) .
That these are the "brides" of the mock-Christ figure is illus-
trated by their "affirmation of the faith" and by their grotesque
revelations of the degree that each was the "true" bride. Their
remarks directly echo the traditional taking of the vows by nuns who
become the "bride of Christ." In the argument, for example, one of
the prostitutes illustrates this: "'He was more than any husband
could ever be.' Peroxide said. 'We were married in the eyes of God
and I belong to him right now and always will and all of me is his.
I don't care about my body. They can take my body. My soul belongs
to Steve Ketchel'" (p. 389), In response, the other prostitute relates
her experience: "Alice was crying so she could hardly speak from shak-
ing so. He said, "Your re a lovely piece, Alice ." Thnat 's exactly
what he said'" (p. 390). The culmination of the argument sequence
occurs with Alice besting the other prostitute by a ludicrous apprai-
sal of her value, both in relation to Ketchel and to the present:
"'No,i said Alice in that sweet lovely voice, 'you haven't got any
real memories except having your tubes out and when you started C,
and M. Everything else you just read in the papers. I'm clean and
you kn~ow it and men like me, even though I'm big, and you know it,
and I never lie and you know it' (p. 390),
Nick and Tom have been listening to the exchange, but the
younger Nick is taken in by the seductive voice and appearance of the
"Queen" who emerges victorious in this W~alpurgis Night congregation.
Nick describes the features of Alice as almost Madonna-like: "She had
a pretty face and a nice smooth skin and a lovely voice." But it is
the older Tom ("sI swear to Christ I've never been anywhere like this"'
[p. 387]) who guides Nick away frorm the dangers of involvement with
the apparent real diabolic forces at work. When the cook asks, "'Which
way are you boys going?s" his question is one laden with meaning in the
light of the experience Nick and Tom have just encountered. In his
sympathetic attitude toward Alice, Nick might be ready to choose the
"wrong" way. Tom, however, is the forceful agent who literally saves
Nick from himself and the possibility of being imprisoned in this
"Palace of Lucifera." "'The other way from you"' (p. 391). Tom tells
the cook, and his words also have a prophetic cast to them in relation
to the symbolic frame of the experience with these representatives of
the Seven Deadly Sins. Nick does not make a conscious moral choice
here, but his "guide" represents in a psychological framework another
aspect of his own personality. If the "guide" leads him away from the
dangers represented, it is some indication that he has escaped the
dangers of the irrational at one point. He will as well be better able
to cope with similar circumstances in the normal, every-day world
where identical forces are encountered in more subtle guises.
Hemingwayls intense interest in the threshold encounters with
the dark forces of the world by a young hero are not limited solely
to the Nick Adams stories. In "The Revolutionist" and in "The Capital
of the World," he deals with similar encounters. Both of these stories
suggest opposing responses by the two young heroes who are the central
characters of each. The narrative method differs in both, and the
themes account for the difference in approach. In "The Revolutionist,"
the narrator relates the adventure of a young man with romantic illusions
who keeps them, although it is obvious that is all they are. In "The
Capital of the World," the direct threshold experience is revealed,
and although the central character also has romantic illusions about
life there is illustrated here the account of the vital moment of
No more than a brief sketch, the significance of "The Revolu-
tionist" is more its focus upon the young central character than as a
short story with all the traditional accouterments of that form. In
the opening lines, the narrator, a worker for the "movement" in Italy,
describes the credentials the young man carries: "In 1919 he was
travelling on the railroads in Italy, carrying a square of oilcloth
from the headquarters of the party written in indelible pencil and
saying here was a comrade who had suffered very much under the Whites
in Budapest and requesting comrades to aid him in any way. He used
this instead of a ticket. He was very shy and quite young and the
train men passed him on from one crew to another. He had no money,
and they fed him behind the counter in railway eating houses" (p. 157),
The irony implied by the title of the piece becomes apparent,
for this is a "revolutionist" traveling with "false" credentials.
Having experienced things and "suffered much" he has no conception of
the implications of that suffering and his own attitudes belie the
literal message of the credentials, He is still the innocent untouched
by experience, much as the young Nick in "Indian Camp." Here, however,
the young revolutionary is not a boy of Nick's age; he is a young man
who has experienced the wider, more expansive happenings in the socio-
political realm, This is an area of experience into which Hemningway
thrusts other young heroes as they progressively grow older. Having
gone through the period of childhood and young adolescence, there are
certain kinds of responses to be expected of the young adult. If he
maintains his childish illusions through his young manhood, the ini-
tial awakening experience will have traumatic consequences. Played
against the register of the older and more experienced narrator, the
young hero depicts an individual who is still fixed at some infantile
The naive innocence of the young revolutionist and his inabil-
ity to see the far-reaching consequences of the acts in which he is
involved are brought into focus by the single exchange between him
and the narrator of this sketch.
He was a Magyar, a very nice boy and very shy. Horthy' s men had
done some bad things to him. He talked about it a little. In
spite of Hungary, he believed altogether in the world revolution.
rBut how is the movement going in Italy?r he asked.
r Very badly, I said.
'But it will go better,' he said. rYou have everything here.
It is the one country that every one is sure of It will be the
starting point of everything.'
I did not say anything. (p. 157)
The juxtaposition of the narrator's pessimism and the young man's
optimism points up the themes of illusion and disillusion that appear
elsewhere in Hemingway's short stories. In this story the themes are
related to a cause as an ideal. In the stories that refer to an older
character, Hemingw~ay sometimes parallels such attachments to the clea-
vage of the infant to its mother. Both kinds of attachments have dan-
gers, and the maturation process which must follow involves a separation
from dependency, insight into the nature of all protective agencies, and
final atonement as the self emerges. In the exchange between the nar-
rator and the young boy, author sympathy seems to lie with the older of
the pair. Be that as it may, there is still a certain nostalgia indi-
cated in the narrators attitude toward the boy with ideals. Thus this
story is not so much an indictment of the ideal as it is an examination
of the individuals who are romantically committed to it.
The boy is on his way to Switzerland, and it represents refuge
and freedom from the trials of the movement. Thne boy wishes to walk
over the pass from Italy into Switzerland, a further indication in this
context of his romantic propensities, As the narrator tells of his
final association with the boy and of his knowledge of the boyr s fate,
a final, subtle irony emerges: "He thanked me very much, but his mind
was already looking forward to walking over the pass. He was very eager
to walk over the pass while the weather held good. Hie loved the