(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Between 1925 and 1933, Ernest Hemingway published sixteen stories about a character he called Nick Adams. Appearing in various collections and arranged in no particular time sequence, the narratives appeared disconnected and incomplete. In 1972, after Hemingway’s death, the stories were collected, arranged in the chronological order of Adams’ life, and augmented with eight unpublished fragments found after Hemingway’s death. From this reorganization emerged a coherent picture of Nick’s life from his boyhood in upper Michigan through his adult experiences. Nick Adams’ life runs parallel to Hemingway’s life.

Nick’s formative years bring him face-to-face with meaningless suffering, violence, death, and what Hemingway depicts as the futility of human existence. For example, in “Indian Camp,” the boy accompanies his father, a doctor, to deliver an Indian woman’s baby. His father uses a jackknife to perform a Cesarean section without anesthetic. The baby is delivered successfully, but the woman’s husband is so ravaged by his wife’s suffering that he commits suicide.

Later, as an adolescent runaway riding the rails, Nick meets a brain-damaged former prizefighter in “The Battler.” The fighter, Ad Francis, is prone to violent outbursts and is kept in check by his companion, Bugs, who subdues him with a blackjack. In “The Killers,” Nick is working in a small-town diner when gangsters from Chicago come to murder a local...

(The entire section is 406 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Benson, Jackson J., ed. New Critical Approaches to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991.

Gurko, Leo. Ernest Hemingway and the Pursuit of Heroism. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968.

Young, Philip. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1952.