Most Famous Ernest Hemingway Short Stories

Ernest Hemingway Short Stories

Hemingway began his literary career, with the publication of his collection Three Short Stories and Ten Poems. His books are more than enough to establish him as a writer of brilliance who had mastered the art of objectivity and showed a hard boiled attitude which was responsible for his world wide fame. In his short stories, he has displayed an attitude and literary technique that marked his style throughout his literary career and firmly ensconced him as the chief spokesperson for the ‘lost generation’.

List of Hemingway Short Stories

In Our Time (1924)

Hemingway’s entry into the literary world began with his reporting days. But his first creative work to be published was three stories and ten Poems in 1923 and his literary career begins with the publication of In Our Time a collection of twelve short stories in Paris, later in 1925, an American edition of the same containing fifteen short stories were published. The title is taken from the verse ‘Give us peace in our time, O Lord’ from the Common Book of Prayer. The title is ironical and the sketches and stories in the book deal with war, bull fighting and other violent incidents of contemporary life that Hemingway came across in his days as a roving reporter. Hemingway takes up a violent themes and through them explore the pain and torment affecting the modern world. The Paris volume includes them pertaining to the execution of politicians, an artillery barrage, thieves being shot by Chinags Police- men, the wondering and death of a bull-fighter, a country taken by civil war and its irresponsible king. The American value contains fifteen additional stories, when Nick Adams, the first Hemingway hero is introduced. He appears in seven of these short stories and he is connecting factor of these stories, creating the impression that these stories are different chapters in the biography of Nick Adams.

Nick Adams

Nick Adams is the first Hemingway’s hero. In the stories that appeared in In Our Time he is presented as a young American boys, who lives with his father in an area inhabited by Indians. His father teaches him to fish and shoot. And the stories chronicle Nick’s journey from his first love affair with an Indian girl Trudy, his first sexual experimentation and sexual awakening, and then his experiences in the war, being wounded, getting married and his experience of fatherhood. A most engaging and attractive hero, critics bewail his later disappearance from Hemingway’s other novels, though shades of him appear in such heroes as Frederic Henry of A Farewell to Arms. Nick Adams is to a large ex- tent a self portrait. A large dose of the young Hemingway can be seen in the character of Nick Adams. Like Hemingway, Nick Adams’ personality is marred by self-reliance, experimentation, venturesome, sporty and outdoorish brave and sensitive. It also notes how Adam was psychologically as well as physically wounded during the war, which torment him and from which easy recovery is impossible. Following are some of the more significant Nick Adams stories.

Indian Camp

This is the first story in the Nick Adams series. It is typical of the stories about Nick Adams which is about a young boy’s initiation into violence and pain. From avidity and innocence to the world of harsh, unpleasant reality is one jerky, violent moment. In this story Nick Adams comes into contact with pain, birth and death through two freak cases. Nick Adams accompanies his father, who is a doctor in the Indian camp where a woman is giving birth. Nick witnesses the mother’s intense physical pain as she undergoes labour and also the violent shock of dis- covering that the young husband has committed suicide, slashing his neck, as he was unable to stand his wife’s screams. The most point of the story is the emotional effect of these incidents on Nick who enquire of his father whether all women had such a bad time while having babies and whether many men kill themselves.

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The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife

This story shows Nick witnessing a conflict between his parents and Nick finds himself taking his father that is the doctor’s side. In taking sides with his father, Nick has aligned himself towards the masculine world and its realities at the same time rejecting his mother and her refusal to see evil in the world.

The End of Something

In this short story, Nick has become a little older and has stepped into the world of sexual experience. The story recounts how a love affair comes to an end and Nick is faced with a dilemma of confronting what he actually feels as a result of ending the affair and what he thinks he ought to feel. The same kind of experience is repeated in the story The Three Day Blow. This is again about his initiation and experience of the relationship with the opposite sex and talks more about his entry into the male domain.

The Battler

Here, Nick encounters a boxer who is violent and half crazy. He is obsessed about throwing punches and ironically the story also has a soft spoken Negro as the boxer’s protector. The story deals with the relationship between the two men which Nick observes that this relationship is darkly sinister. This disturbing and confounding quality of the relationship has been brilliantly portrayed in a skillful and subtle manner.

All the stories deal therefore of wounds, and the question of death and experience with pain. Nick Adam and shades of his character later appear in one name or another dealing with such experiences. Nick is wounded physically but his psychological wound is deeper, this leads to the story when he comes away from war and declares that he has made a separate peace, much like Frederic Henry in Hemingway’s later novel A Farewell to Arms.

Men Without Women (1927)- Winner Take Nothing (1932)

These are again collections of short stories when Nick Adams appears again.

Ten Indians

In this story, Nick Adams come across nine Indians lying drunk on the road side, as he returns in a wagon from a visit to a neighbour who is a farmer. The tenth Indian is a girl called Prudence and the farmer’s sons tease Nick about her. Later, his father reveals that he had seen Prudence with another boy. It is another lesson learnt in his sexual awakening and Nick cries into his pillow.

The Light of the World

Here, Nick as an adolescent progresses further on the journey of sexual understanding. Nick has to undergo the shock of a homosexual making sexual advances. He also witness to two whores one honest and the other dishonest, quarreling about their relationship with a prize- fighter. Nick has to write with the problem of adjusting the conventional view of middle class society to the reality that can only be seen by going beyond these conventions.

The Killers

Here, Nick Adams comes across a man who calmly accepts the fact that the gunmen who are out to get his will surely kill him. Nick is appalled by his passive acceptance and unable to bear the thought decides to get out of the town as quickly as possible.

A Way You’ll Never Be

This is another well-known Nick Adams story. It contains the experience most traumatic in all the Nick Adams stories. Nick has been injured and he is recovering from big wounds. But it is not easy. He suffers horribly. He cannot sleep and when awake he is delirious. He hallucinates and in his hallucination he sees a girl who fleets in and out of his vision sometime alone and sometime with someone. Nick is in a disparate struggle with his nerves, fighting to gain control over them and perhaps someday he shall be able to find peace.

The Shows of Kilimanjaro

This short story, came out in 1936. The story confronts death at varying levels and death as symbol and as reality are fully developed. Here, a severely wounded man waits in the hot sun of the African plain to wait for his leg to fester and poison his system. And as he waits, he has an intense affair with the woman tending him which is further intensified by his memories of happier times. His only hope is that he is rescued by air. But there is a frozen leopard or the snow capped summit of the Kilimanjaro. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that height. And one needs to explain why the plans who rescues him turns away from its course towards the mountain.

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber (1936)

This is a remarkable story about fear and courage and the code. In many respects Francis Macomber remember Robert Cohn from The Sun Also Rises. They are both rich, athletic, a good shot but lacking in courage. Francis goes on a big-game hunting expedition. Then he commits anti-code blunders. He wants to shoot from the car, then he panics and is able to only injure the lion. However, he is afraid to go after the lion into the long grass and kill it. When he does, and the lion attacks, he turns and runs instead of facing the lion. Wilson, who stands his ground kills the lion and save him. If Francis is anti-code, then, Wilson is the code-hero. He is courageous and self-reliant. He is not dependent on anyone either for love or money. The story then progresses on how Francis outgrows his fear and attains as much courage as Wilson which results in a new bond between the men but Francis on the other hand slowly loses his wife’s love and ultimately dies at her hands.

Hemingway’s Style in his Short-Stories

The stories and sketches in this volume of short-stories gave evidence to the fact that Hemingway was the new great artist on the horizon. A new master had arrived. As he had been advised during the days when he started out as a reporter, he had now come to the stage where he wrote in a terse and economical style which function on subtle hints then lengthy descriptions and elaborate dialogue. Hemingway always refrained from describing emotion, believing rather in reproducing the event which produced the emotion in the character and left reader to draw his conclusion. The reader is left to feel the various emotions, wonder, desperation or depression. Hemingway’s style also involves starkness. With nothing but a handful of materials Hemingway conjures up a big scenario. For example in the story Big Two-Hearted River, Nick does nothing but fish and make camp. But in performing these rituals is revealed his state of mind. Also scenes that appear in his later work also appear in germ form in these short stories. For example, in the short story Up in Michigan, first appear Hemingway’s technique of portraying sexual ecstasy through verbal rhythms.

Fascination with Death

Hemingway seems to be preoccupied with death and violence as these are a constant and recurring theme in his works. Here, in between the short stories are set brief stories of death and violence relating to murderous bull-fights, and war-fare. The following scene is a clear indication of what later follows in A Farewell To Arms.

“Two Austrian dead lay in the rubble in the shade of the house. Up the street were other dead. Things were getting forward in town. It was going well. Stretcher bearer would be along anytime now. Nick turned his head carefully and looked at Rinaldi. ‘Senta Rinaldi, Senta. You and me never made a separate peace.” Rinaldi lay still in the sun breathing with difficulty. Because these sketches and the stories are all concerned with almost the same subject-death in all its horrifying phases, there hardly is any discontinuity between them. Hemingway seems to be sending out the unmistakable message that man must learn to accept and lead life in a world hostile to the human condition in all his narrations on war, child birth, sex or hunting and fishing. These vignettes also serve as a technical device, they serve to link the stories. They also set the stories in a context and perspective that give the book, a kind of unity that cannot be found in a collection of short stories. This adds a new dimension to the book imparting the aura of a new form of fiction to the collection.

Honour in a World Sans Values

Hemingway by the nature of his style and technique seems more a dramatist than a novelist. However, akin to Joseph Conrad, he deals in the extreme situation. Much as he seems preoccupied and obsessed with death and violence, he also seems very concerned with the theme of honour, personal honour. This implies the question by what shall a man live and by what a man shall die in a world governed by violence and from where religious and other traditional values have disappeared and no longer exist especially for the problem with which Hemingway is concerned. He is rather concerned with stating and discussing the problem. This is his technique in his collection of short stories where the problem is implied and the answers left unanswered. As stated earlier this collection of short stories is concerned with the boyhood experiences of the protagonist Nick Adams among the woods and lakes of Michigan, and how from being a naïve boy he grows and is initiated into the world of experience, an understanding of the various facets of life in the companionship of his father and the Indians and the Indian guides and the Indian girl Trudy.


The collection, In Our Time, is therefore in many respects a statement on the style, techniques and subject that Hemingway was concerned with and with which he remained so throughout his literary career. The themes he was obsessed with are all here-his obsession with war, violence and specially death, the obsession with the life of the senses, the sensual and physical appetite, and his style-terse, colloquial, economic. As also how man faced with such circumstances, accepts without fuss the given life and tries his best even if he fails.

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