What do you think the relationship was really like between Nick Adams and his father?"Fathers and Sons" by Ernest Hemingway

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Ernest Hemingway's "Fathers and Sons," a part of the Nick Adams series about a young man's coming of age, Nick drives through a small town rather than take a detour.  His son sleeps on the front seat beside him as Nick heads to a town where they will stay for the night.  As he drives on this trip to shoot quail, Nick is reminded of his father, who taught him to shoot and imbued him with a passion for hunting, a passion for which he is grateful to his father. As he continues to drive through the town, Nick remembers that his father

was very nervous.  Then, too, he was sentimental, and, like most sentimental people, he was both cruel and abused.  Also, he had much bad luck, and it was not all of it his own.  He had died in a trap that he had helped only a little to set, and they had all betrayed him in their various way before he died.  All sentimental people are betrayed so many times.

It would seem that while Nick's father had a very sensitive soul, he only exhibited certain of his passions to Nick, such as the passion to hunt. Nick's memories are of things that "had gone badly," and this part is not "good remembering." So, he decides that he will rid himself of these memories by writing them down.  These reflections of Nick's interior monologue lead him to remember his native American friends, Billy and Trudy:

It wasn't how they ended.  That all ended the same.  Long time ago.  Now no good.

Nick realizes that death finds everyone.  But, if one lived a genuine life, uncompromising in principle, then he was a man.  So, when his boy awakens and asks about Nick's father, Nick tells him,

He's hard to describe.  He was a great hunter and fisherman and he had wonderful eyes....He was always very disappointed in the way I shot."

Apparently, Nick was not close to his father, and did not know all his inner thoughts.  But, Nick's father is the Hemingway Hero, one who has struggled against nature and faced his fate--"The face had been making itself and being made for a long time--dying like a man:  "It was a good story."  Nick respected his father, for when his boy asks about visiting the tomb of his grandfather, Nick replies respectfully for the relationship of fathers and sons,

"We'll have to go....I can see we'll have to go."

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