The kind of writing that can be done. How far prose can be carried if any one is serious enough and has luck. There is a fourth and fifth dimension that can be gotten.
Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa
"The Killers" depicts a little incident occurring in a small town in Middle America, but it is set against an implicit backdrop depicting America as it was changing during, and because of, Prohibition. Even the setting in the little diner is different because of Prohibition. Henry's had formerly been a saloon, but the owner had been forced to change it to a lunch room. Instead of being crowded with noisy, laughing men drinking beer and straight shots of whiskey, it is virtually deserted. It is an appropriate symbol of a changing nation. The two killers are obviously from Chicago, the bootleg capital of America. Gangsters have become enormously powerful, and even regarded as heroes, because of their profits from bootleg liquor. They have an arrogant attitude which is memorialized in old movies by actors like James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, George Raft, and Edward G. Robinson. The two killers regard themselves as something like movie stars. One of them keeps looking at himself in the mirror behind the bar. Many Americans resented government interference in their personal lives, and Prohibition sparked a minor revolution. The gangsters used their riches to corrupt the police, the courts, and the legislatures. Evidently Ole Andreson had been corrupted himself, although Hemingway does not specify exactly what he did to "get in wrong." Ole's role in the story seems to be principally to illustrate the extent of the criminals' power. There is no escape. All of America is becoming corrupted. When Nick Adams says that he is getting out of Summit, he may be speaking for Hemingway, who got out of America altogether and spent many years in Europe, where he did much of his best writing. It is well known that Hemingway liked to drink. But he probably did not like the idea of enriching and aggrandizing ignorant troglodytes by doing so. Max and Al are not just a couple of hoods, but symbols of the unanticipated but inevitable results of Prohibition.