Part of the short story collection In Our Time, "The End of Something" by Ernest Hemingway describes how Nick ends his relationship with his girlfriend Marjorie, and in so doing, enters the second stage of what is called Hemingway's concept of the "idealized self." So, the thesis of this short story may be stated as
- In "The End of Something," Nick finds his unique masculine self through his experience of a male/female relationship that he negates by ending this attachment.
Hemingway manipulates the setting of the now defunct lumber mill to foreshadow the end of the personal relationship of Nick and Marjorie as well as to symbolize the emasculation that Nick feels in his relationship since lumberjacking was an occupation in which only virile men worked at that time. As they row past the old lumber camp, Marjorie asks, "Can you remember when it was a mill?" to which Nick replies significantly, "I can just remember." Once they reach shore with their rowboat, Marjorie spreads the blanket "between the fire and the lake." When Nick remarks that there is going to be a moon that night, Marjorie "replies happily," "I know it." But Nick is not happy, observing that she "knows everything." Marjorie protests, "Please, please don't be that way."
"I can't help it....You do. You know everything. That's the trouble. You know you do."
Nick feels his masculinity threatened by Marjorie, who now knows all that he knows about nature and can fish and row as well as he can. He tells Marjorie their relationship is not "fun anymore. Not any of it." Then, as Nick sits with his head in his hands, Marjorie simply rises and says she will take the boat back and he can walk around the point. Nick agrees and offers to push off the boat, but Marjorie says, "You don't need to" because she already has the boat afloat.
After she is gone, Nick lies on the blanket for some time. Bill, Nick's Native American friend, comes toward the fire, asking, "Did she go all right?" Still lying face down, Nick replies "Yes," and asks Bill to leave him alone.