The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway

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The Nick Adams Stories Summary

(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death, the stories were collected, arranged in the chronological order of Adams’ life, and augmented with eight unpublished fragments found after Hemingway’s death.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 man. The man is resigned to his fate and neither fights nor flees when Nick warns him of danger.

Years later, Nick fights in Italy as a soldier in World War I and is wounded. In “Now I Lay Me” he resists sleep, convinced that if he ever closes his eyes, his soul will leave his body. In “Big Two-Hearted River ,” Nick returns from the war physically healed but wounded in soul; he searches for solace and...

(The entire section is 452 words.)