Study Guide

Up in Michigan

by Ernest Hemingway

Up in Michigan Summary

Synopsis

The erotically named short story "Up In Michigan" appeared in Ernest Hemingway's first published work, Three Stories and Ten Poems. Three hundred copies were printed in Paris by Robert Almon in 1923. It reappeared in 1938 in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories and later still in 1997 in The Short Stories, a Scribner Classic Edition. The story is set in Hortons Bay, Michigan, close to where Hemingway spent his adolescent summers. For some unexplained reason, he took the first names of Jim and Liz Dilworth, a couple who befriended him, and gave them to the story's main characters.

"Up In Michigan" is deceptively simple, almost plotless. Jim Gilmore, a blacksmith, comes to Hortons Bay and buys the blacksmith shop. Liz Coates is a young girl who works as a waitress for the Smiths, who own the restaurant. Liz falls in love with Jim, who barely notices her. Jim, Smith, and Charley Wyman go on a deer-hunting trip. Liz longs for Jim while he is gone. When the hunters return, they have a few drinks to celebrate their trip. After supper and a few more drinks, Jim goes into the kitchen, hugs and kisses Liz, and says, "come on for a walk." They go to the end of the dock where Jim's hands explore Liz's body. She is frightened and begs him to stop, but allows him to continue. He takes her on the cold, hard dock planks and then passes out on top of her. She gets out from under him, tries to awaken him and, finally, covers him with her coat. Then she walks home, crying.

As rumor has it, Hemingway may have had his first sexual encounter in a similar situation. However, it would be wrong to assume this story to be a bragging account of a seduction by a young, macho Hemingway. In actuality, it is Hemingway's first foray into the feminine psyche, a subject that will fascinate him his whole career. Liz will come to be the less sophisticated spiritual sister to the young American wife in "Cat in the Rain," to the pregnant young woman in "Hills Like White Elephants," and to the androgynous Catherine in The Garden of Eden.

Though there are two main characters, the point of view is strictly Liz's. Jim only speaks five sentences, and readers never get inside his head. Liz has fallen in live with the "things" of Jim—his mustache, his white teeth, his walk. She knows nothing about him as a person. Hemingway sympathetically explores her conflicting emotions. He understands the adolescent fantasies of this naive young girl, even as they lead to a brutal conclusion. Like many young women before and after her, she is surely disillusioned, but she will learn from her painful experience.

Jim, on the other hand, will wake up and not remember a thing.