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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 530

“The Killers” was first published at the height of the Prohibition Era in 1927, a time when criminal activity was rampant throughout the United States, most notably in and around Chicago. Like many of Hemingway’s short stories of the 1920s, it features the character of Nick Adams playing a passive, but nonetheless central, role as a reactor to the plot’s events. It begins when two men (Al and Max) enter a diner in a small town near Chicago and order dinner. When the counterman George says that they must wait until six o’clock for dinner, they order ham and eggs and then scan the scene. They see that young Nick is the only other customer there, order him to go around the counter with George, and then call the cook, Sam, from the kitchen.

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It becomes plain that Al and Max are professional killers or hit-men. One of them takes Nick and Sam back to the kitchen where he first ties them up and then gags them. He then takes a shotgun from under his long coat and sticks it through the service slot between the kitchen and the counter. The other guards George and openly reveals that they are here to kill Ole Anderson, a regular customer at the diner and former prize-fighter who has apparently crossed the mob. Although Ole usually eats his supper there at 6 o’clock, on this night the “Swede” does not appear at his regular time. After waiting an hour, Al and Max simply leave.

George unties Nick and Sam, and he tells Nick that he must warn Ole that mobsters have come to kill him. Nick goes to the boarding house where Ole lives and finds him lying in bed. He tells the ex-boxer what has happened and offers to go to the police. But Ole says that this would not do any good and appears to be resigned to his fate. Nick then goes back to the diner and to George’s speculation that the Swede must have angered some Chicago crime boss. Nick,...

(The entire section contains 530 words.)

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