The conflict is real and it is too big for him to tackle on his own, so he shuts down and checks out emotionally.
Another story that deals with inner conflict is "Now I Lay Me." This story is completely internal and it becomes the narrator's way to keep from losing his mind as he fights insomnia. He is suffering from shell shock. The conflict is the narrator's inability to sleep as well as his fear that if he does sleep, his soul will leave him. He admits to having "different ways of occupying" (Hemingway 276) himself while he lies awake with the most amusing thing is remembering a trout stream he fished when he was a boy. On some nights, he makes up streams, some of which were "very exciting, and it was like being awake and dreaming" (277). His imagination is so vivid, he forgets which streams are real and which are made up. One the nights he cannot fish he says his prayers "over and tried to pray for all the people I had ever known" (277). His reason for doing this was because if he prayed for everyone, "saying a Hail Mary and an Our Father for each one, it took a long time and finally it would be light" (277) and then he could go to sleep. Another way of dealing with the sleepless nights was remembering everything that ever happened to him before he went to war. He admits to not even being able to remember how to pray on some nights, however and trying something else to think about. He must keep his mind engaged in order to maintain control and not fall asleep. Margot Sempreora writes that the "imaginary waters of his insomniac search offer more fish than have been apparent on the first pass, and repetition of the familiar is a comfort to this narrator, whether of trout in streams or words in text" (Sempreora). Indeed, Nick seems to have found a way to help him find peace and quell the demons that fight for his mind. This conflict may be one of the most terrifying because there is no release from what is going on in the mind.
Hemingway knew how to write but the thing that made him a successful writer was his ability to connect with readers on a personal level. He knew how to get into the minds of his characters and make his readers feel as if they knew exactly what he was talking about. Hemingway never tried to talk down to his readers but instead, he wanted to talk to them and provide an escape that might lighten their load knowing they were not alone. Harry faced his death bravely but he was actually weak because he did not do all that he could have with his life. Krebs could never adjust to life back home after the war and he was so beaten down by the experience that he did not have what he needed to even want to try to make it on the outside. Nick was also suffering from his wartime experience. He felt the only way to control his conflict was to never allow his mind a moment's rest. Samuel Shaw wrote that Hemingway's style brings "literature closer to life" (Shaw 77). This is certainly true, even is that closeness involves loss, pain, and suffering. All of the men in these stories faced conflict, loss and death of a particular kind. Through this conflict, Hemingway exposes the human condition.
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