Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 308
There are three main characters in this short story by Ernest Hemingway.
The first is Nick Adams, the protagonist. Nick is a drifter, but it is suggested that he is relatively young and new to the game. Slightly naive, he has been punched in the face by a brakesman, sending him falling off a freight train into a ditch. He willingly admits that he isn't "tough," and he doesn't seem very able to look after himself. It is not clear where he has come from or where he is going, but we know he is traveling alone, trying to reach the next town.
Adolph "Ad" Francis is the first man Nick meets when walking. Ad is a former prizefighter, relatively well known, whose face has been misshapen by his activities. He has only one ear and a very slow pulse, and is "crazy." It is revealed that Ad has a tendency to pick fights, and has previously been in jail, where he also tried to get people to fight with him. Sometimes he reaches a state of aggression from which he can only be extracted by being knocked out and then revived.
Bugs is a friend of Ad's, a black man. The two of them met in jail, where Bugs had been imprisoned for knife crimes. In prison, he often looked after Ad and prevented him getting into too much trouble. He fulfills the same role now, traveling around the country with Ad and looking after him. The two of them live on money sent by Ad's former "manager," a woman who pretended to be his sister but was really his lover. Bugs speaks kindly to Nick, offers him food, and knocks out Ad when Ad threatens him. At the end of the story, Nick hears Bugs gently waking Ad, who has no memory of what has happened.