Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Ernest Hemingway’s style gives the clue to the real meaning of the story. On their first reading, most readers think that the killers and Ole Andreson are the central figures, but the reader never learns what Ole did or what will ultimately happen to him. Instead, the story simply ends with the three bystanders back in the restaurant discussing what has happened. Although the tone of the story is objective throughout—indeed, the story consists almost entirely of dialogue, with little interpretation or judgment by the author—the focus is clearly on the three bystanders, especially Nick Adams.
Of the three, Nick Adams is the only one whose last name is given, and he is the one who goes to warn Ole, so the narrative follows him throughout. In addition, one of the few interpretative comments on the action by the author concerns Nick. When Nick is untied by George, Hemingway mentions that Nick has never had a towel in his mouth before and that his reaction is one of “trying to swagger it off.” At the end of the story, it is only through simple dialogue that the reader learns the reactions of all three. However, Nick’s reaction is most important, as the other two are from the area and are apparently more accustomed to violence. Their reaction is less out of shock than an attempt to avoid involvement. Nick is more impressed by what he has witnessed and decides that he does not want to have anything to do with the kind of town where such things...
(The entire section is 446 words.)
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