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Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner in the 1946 film adaptation of The Killers Published by Gale Cengage

‘‘The Killers’’ is one of Hemingway’s most anthologized and analyzed stories. The single most influential critical essay on the story was written by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren for their short story anthology, Understanding Fiction. Brooks and Warren argue that the story belongs to Nick, not Ole or the gangsters, and that through his experiences with the killers, Nick discovers evil. R. S. Crane argues against some of the claims made by Brooks and Warren in his book The Idea of the Humanities and Other Ideas Critical and Historical, writing that Nick is only an ‘‘impersonal messenger . . . a utility character in Hemingway’s rendering of an action with which Nick has nothing essential to do.’’ In his essay ‘‘Some Questions About Hemingway’s ‘The Killers’’’ in Studies in Short Fiction , Edward Stone notes many of the peculiarities of the story and contends that it is Al and Max’s ‘‘surrealistic appearance’’ that shocks Nick, not the pervasiveness of crime or Ole’s response to...

(The entire section is 326 words.)