‘‘The Killers’’ is one of Hemingway’s most anthologized and analyzed stories. The single most influential critical essay on the story was written by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren for their short story anthology, Understanding Fiction. Brooks and Warren argue that the story belongs to Nick, not Ole or the gangsters, and that through his experiences with the killers, Nick discovers evil. R. S. Crane argues against some of the claims made by Brooks and Warren in his book The Idea of the Humanities and Other Ideas Critical and Historical, writing that Nick is only an ‘‘impersonal messenger . . . a utility character in Hemingway’s rendering of an action with which Nick has nothing essential to do.’’ In his essay ‘‘Some Questions About Hemingway’s ‘The Killers’’’ in Studies in Short Fiction, Edward Stone notes many of the peculiarities of the story and contends that it is Al and Max’s ‘‘surrealistic appearance’’ that shocks Nick, not the pervasiveness of crime or Ole’s response to his circumstances. For Stone, the story belongs to Ole, not Nick. Charles Owen, in ‘‘Time and the Contagion of Flight in ‘The Killers,’’’ says that the story belongs neither to Nick or Ole but to readers, who, like Nick, retain ‘‘faith in expedients, a faith that makes him representative of a whole tradition in American culture.’’...
(The entire section is 338 words.)
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