The Killers Questions and Answers
by Ernest Hemingway

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What is the importance of time in "The Killers"?

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Time is a crucial element of the plot in Ernest Hemingway’s story. The author uses time to build suspense. After the two intended killers, Al and Max, enter the diner, they spend a few minutes taking precautions, such as tying up the cook and the customer. They then take two positions, one out front as the lookout, and the other in the kitchen as the shooter. Time becomes crucial because the would-be killers know the habits of Ole, their intended victim. They have arrived before 6 p.m., as the conversation indicates, because that is when the dinner menu would have gone into effect. The five people in the diner then wait until after 7 p.m., by which time Al and Max decide that Ole is not coming. After they leave, Nick goes to find Ole at home. Ole shows a fatalistic attitude toward his impending death, and the reader is left to assume that he will merely wait for his pursuers. Ole believes his time is up.

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