Hemingway's the Killers Alienation Disillusionment essay

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Booth asserts that while Ole's acceptance of death "seems incomprehensible to Nick" (Booth) his "resolve, although leaving too many questions unanswered, is portrayed as admirable and mature" (Booth). In addition to this, Booth maintains that Ole's death and is "in keeping with themes that are recurrent in Hemingway's work" (Booth). If we can accept death in the way that Ole does, we accept the fact that death is simply a part of life and there is essentially nothing we can do about it.

Another character that deserves mention in the story is Nick. Brooks contends that there is more to the story than this, however, in that the story is also a story about Nick. Brooks adds that Nick fits into the story through the process of "discovery of evil and disorder" (Brooks). Hal Blythe agrees with the importance of Nick's inclusion in the story. He asserts, that Hemingway uses Nick to emphasize the fact that along with the circumstance of facing death and violence, "he also faces a choice" (Blythe). Blythe notes that Hemingway's "cites door openings and closings (plus other entrances and departures through doorways) sixteen times to stress that, to become an authentic person, Nick must make crucial decisions" (Blythe). The doors, just as the wall, become important motifs in the story. Walls represent imprisonment while door suggest choice. For Ole, walls symbolize the type of universe he is living in, which include no choice and very little options. The door, on the other hand, Nick is noticing doors in movement. Blythe asserts that doors offer "passages through what appear to be barriers" (Blythe). Blythe asserts, "Hemingway has laced his narrative with the door motif to suggest that Nick is free to make choices... he can listen to Sam the cook and have nothing else to do with the affair; he can follow George's view that getting out of town is 'a good thing to do'... Or he can do something else that he chooses" (Blythe). Blythe also maintains that the subject of choices is apparent in the story's conclusion, which is "ambiguous' (Blythe) because Nick does not make a choice.

It can be argued that "The Killers" is not a story about Ole. It is also about Nick and his revelations. Nick comes into contact with evil and violence when he meets Al and Max. Their reasons for killing Ole remain unknown and how Nick responds to it is significant because it, too, falls in line with Hemingway's technique of alienation and despair.

Al and Max are no doubt evil. Nick has come face-to-face with men that kill simply for the sake of killing. At the story's conclusion, Nick decides he must "get out of this town" (Hemingway 615) because all of what he has seen becomes too much for him to digest. He finds it difficult to accept the fact that Ole is just simply waiting for his killers to come and take his life. He tells George that he "can't stand" (615) to think about it and all George can tell him is to not think about it then because it is inevitable. Nick is the character that becomes immersed with something that he certainly did not want to experience. He is almost Ole's foil in that he refuses to accept certain facts that Ole has resigned himself to believe. Nick is Ole before he became distant and alienated. Nick is Ole before he accepted the fact that there is nothing he can do about the killers coming after him. Nick is faced with a decision of becoming a nihilist like his friend Ole or attempting to escape while he still has his life and a fairly decent attitude toward that life. Of course, we must also realize that Nick will never be able to forget what he has witnessed no matter how far away he goes. The memories will be there and, as a result, he runs the risk of becoming detached simply because he cannot forget. Ole waits for his killers while nick might have attempted to run from them. Ole knows what Nick has not accepted yet, which is that life is basically about a bunch of nothing.

The Killers" represents not just a slice of Ernest Hemingway's life but also a slice of an American mindset and a slice of American literature that speaks to and from an age of searching. Hemingway's short, concise writing symbolizes an attitude that emerged from a culture of people that felt lost in the world. These people did not feel as though they had a country of their own to call home and their lifestyles often illustrate a kind of living that illustrates this sense of homelessness. Hemingway became an icon in his time because he captured this attitude perfectly. There are many times when we would simply rather not know the truth or not know when something is going to happen. We get bogged down with the burdens of life and sometimes they create within us a desire to not care about anything. Life is difficult and circumstances can be overbearing at times. This is what Ole faces in this story. He faces what he feels is an inevitable death and all that he can do is wait for it. In addition, Nick much watch all of this evolve before his eyes. He is slated to become the next victim of alienation and detachment because of what he has seen and heard. He cannot seem to make an impact and is no doubt aware of the fact that the world is a cruel place with cruel, cold-hearted killers in it. Hemingway seems to be pointing out that there are two types of people in this world - those that have already faced the nihilistic approach to life and, essentially given up on any hope that might exist and those that are on the brink of making this discovery. This is part of Hemingway's gift to the world through literature. He acknowledges that this mindset is real and creates realistic characters that demonstrate his point. "The Killers" is one of Hemingway's most anthologized stories because it captures sentiments that are shocking and, in Hemingway's estimation, unavoidable.

Works Cited

Aldrige, John. "The Sun Also Rises: Sixty Years Later." Readings on Earnest Hemingway. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. 1997.

Beegel, Susan. "Ernest Hemingway." GALE Resource Database. Site Accessed March 22, 2009. http://www.infotrac.galegroup.com

Blythe, Hal. Hemingway's the Killers. The Explicator. 2003. GALE Resource Database. Site Accessed March 22, 2009. http://www.infotrac.galegroup.com

Booth, Philip. "Hemingwa's 'The Killers' and Heroic Fatalism: From Page to Screen. Literature/Film Quarterly. 2007. GALE Resource Database. Site Accessed March 22, 2009. http://www.infotrac.galegroup.com

Brooks, Cleanth. "The Killers, Ernest Hemingway: Interpretation, in Understanding Fiction." 1959. GALE Resource Database. Site Accessed March 22, 2009. http://www.infotrac.galegroup.com

Hemingway, Ernest. "The Killers." Thirty-Eight Short Stories: An Introductory Anthology. Toronto: Alfred a. Knopf, Inc. 1968.

Semansky, Chris. "Hemngway's 'The Killers.'" Source:Short Stories for Students. 2003. GALE Resource Database. Site Accessed March 22,…[continue]

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