On the Quai at Smyrna:
This was a very short, and violent story to start a book off with; not a very surprising Hemingway move to make. I believe the thing that shocked me the most in the story is, even after all of the horrifics the main character describes throughout the story, his last line still reads “It was all a very pleasant business. My word yes a pleasant business.” I love Hemingway short stories, because they almost seem like a page was taken out of a novel, and you are reading a single page from the middle of a story; yet, each story gives enough information to stand alone, and still leave you wanting more.
This is one of the first stories of Hemingway’s In Our Time, and also the first story to feature Nick Adams, a recurring character in Hemingway’s short stories. In Indian Camp, we see a young Nick Adams struggle to learn about life, mortality, and parental relationships. Something that struck me in this story is the role of women in Hemingway’s stories; the Indian woman, the purpose for their visit, the one giving birth, seems completely insignificant to George and Nick’s father, even the other Indian men. When Nick’s father says “I do not hear them, because they do not matter,” when referring to the woman’s screams, he is almost admitting that the woman does not matter; the only thing that matters to them is how she can get them in a medical journal; she is simply a means to an end. Another striking thing in this story is the presence of such powerful binaries; the differential presence of birth and death, and perhaps just life in general, is such an essential theme in most of Hemingway’s stories, and Indian Camp proves no different; with the birth of a son, there is the death of a husband, and Hemingway shows us that with birth and death, we cannot have one without the other.
The Doctor and The Doctor’s Wife
Another Nick Adams story. Putting two stories in a row like this with recurring characters, without the stories being connected in any way, makes the reader immediately curious about the connections between chapters and stories. This story, along with Indian Camp, exemplifies the themes of fathers and sons, suicide, and loss. I believe the most important scene, the most telling perhaps, is when the father is cleaning his gun and Nick’s mother says “I don’t really believe anyone would do that intentionally.” This kind of ambiguity is what makes me love Hemingway so much. Because she could just be talking about the Indians who supposedly owe Nick’s father money, but if you’re paying attention, you can just make out that she’s most definitely talking about suicide. Most of what’s happening in Hemingway’s writing is what he doesn’t say; that is to say, The Art is in what’s Not Written.
The End of Something
Yet another Nick Adams story. I believe what is striking in this story is Nick’s reaction to the city; Nick feels that he might never love again, therefor the city, which might never rise up out of the ashes and be a city again, is a metaphor for Nick’s love and empty heart.
The Three Day Blow
I feel dumb saying this, but I don’t quite understand this story. I mean I understand that Nick is hanging out with his friend Bill, they’re talking about baseball and books, and eventually move on to Nick’s breakup with a woman named Madge. I suppose I’ll just point out things in the story that interested me, or that I liked. On the first page, Nick asks “Is your dad in?” And Bill replies “No, he’s out with the gun.” This brings back not only the recurring theme of fathers and sons, but also the recurring motif of guns, leading to suicide (which is ironic and almost morbid, the audience knowing of course that Hemingway went on to commit suicide by shooting himself). The scene when Nick is looking at himself in the mirror is an interesting one, as he says “It was not his face but it didn’t make any difference.” It’s almost saying Nick didn’t know who he was, and he didn’t care at all.
Horror and violence comes out in the short story “The Battler.” Not only pure physical violence is showcased when Nick meets the battler, but also mental instability and racial and class differences. This was one of the longest stories, yet I’m not sure I got as much out of it as I did with some of the shorter one, such as A Very Short Story or The Quai at Smyrna; though there is a lot of action, nothing lasts, and at the end of the story Nick just leaves the Battler and Bugs and continues on his way.
A Very Short Story.
This is probably my favorite of all of the stories in In Our Time. About 3/4 of the story is spent with the main character (not Nick, the first since The Quai at Smyrna that does not feature Nick Adams) talking about Luz, their relationship, and their plans for the future. I found it interesting on the first page when they are discussing marriage and the main character says “They felt as though they were married, but they wanted every one to know about it, and to make it so they could not lose it.” This is ironic, as in A Farewell to Arms, one of Hemingway’s most famous novels, very similar to this, the main characters say that because they feel they are married, they do not need a license to prove it; this just makes me, a reader, wonder why these characters are different from Henry and Catherine, and why they would want a license to validate their love. Then in the end, Hemingway lets us know that Luz decides theirs was only a “boy and girl affair,” not an adult relationship. Then in the last paragraph he tells us that Luz does not marry her new boyfriend, the major, and he says “A short time after HE contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.” Lincoln Park, being in Chicago, where we are told the major lives. So the major contracts gonorrhea, and Luz “looses” the guy. But what happens to the main character? We are not told.
A Soldier’s Home
We discussed this in length in class, about how this story exemplifies Hemingway’s recurring theme of soldiers coming home after war, and the emptiness they felt inside. Today we know this to be a legitimate problem, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but in Hemingway’s time this emptiness is simply a show of weakness. Something that struck me in this story is that Hare seems adamant when speaking to his mother that he does not love anyone. However, earlier, when talking to his sister, she asks if he loves her. He replies “Sure.” She says “you don’t love me. Because if you did you would want to come watch me play indoor.” Yet the very last line reads “Well, that was all over now. He would go over to the schoolyard and watch Helen play indoor baseball.” Perhaps this is a coincidence, but I believe this is Hemingway’s way of showing that even though Hare feels he can never love again, anything is possible.