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Two themes common in Modernism are found in the story: alienation and Nihilism. Harry has lived a life of alienation, emotionally distant from his several wives and never identifying with or belonging to the wealthy society in which he has lived, courtesy of his most recent wife's money. As he dies, no spiritual faith sustains him. He has no thoughts of a Supreme Being or an afterlife. He thinks only of all he intended to write but did not write. He worships only the gift he squandered.
Finally, an especially interesting element of Modernism in the story is Hemingway's employment of allusion. Harry's tough and unsympathetic observations about his former friend Julian's destruction is an easily identified reference to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway's former friend who had suffered a severe emotional breakdown
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