Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway Summary

“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” traces the final hours of Harry, a writer dying of gangrene on safari in Africa. Most of the story consists of Harry’s self-critical ruminations on how he has not fulfilled his potential as a writer, instead choosing to make his living by marrying rich women like his current wife Helen. Harry has a series of delirious memory-dreams in which he recalls the adventures of his youth, from skiing in the mountains to patronizing prostitutes in Constantinople, from living in Paris to giving all his morphine tablets to a fellow soldier during World War I. Harry’s final dream is that he is flying to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro; this desirable series of events evaporates as shortly afterwards he is found dead on the cot where he has been lying all day.

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is a tale about a weak husband, Macomber, and his domineering wife Margot on safari in Africa with their guide Robert Wilson. Macomber runs away from a wounded lion and incurs the wrath and scorn of Margot, who promptly and openly has an affair with Wilson. Macomber finds redemption during a buffalo shoot and begins to gain confidence, only to be shot down by his wife in an allegedly accidental attempt to finish off a wounded buffalo.

“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” describes the conversation of two Spanish waiters, one young and one middle-aged, as they wait for the departure of their last customer of the evening, an old man who has recently attempted suicide. The young waiter is a confident man, impatient to get home to his wife, and the middle-aged waiter is a disillusioned, lonely man, who believes that life is meaningless, and who dreads leaving the café.

“The Capital of the World” is about a small residential hotel in Madrid inhabited by second-rate bullfighters. Paco, the protagonist, is a young waiter who aspires to a career in the ring. During an ill-advised game he plays with another employee of the hotel, Paco is fatally wounded and dies, still believing himself to have the potential to be a great bullfighter.

“Hills Like White Elephants” is the story of an afternoon’s conversation between a man and a woman waiting at a train station in Spain for the express train to Madrid. The man is pestering the woman, Jig, to get an abortion so they can continue to enjoy a carefree life of travel. Jig is reluctant to do so, and seems to consider the issue of her pregnancy from many different viewpoints, unlike her partner.

Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories, “The Killers,” “In Another Country,” “A Day’s Wait” and “Fathers and Sons” trace Nick’s life from adolescence through to age 38. In “The Killers,” a teenage Nick is held hostage by two hit men in a diner outside Chicago. The men are planning to kill Ole Andreson, a former prizefighter with a murky past, and when the men leave without having found Ole, Nick risks his own life by warning Ole at his boarding house. Ole refuses to do anything to save himself, though Nick resolves to skip town. “In Another Country” describes a young Nick’s experiences recovering from a leg wound in a hospital in Milan following fighting on the Italian front during World War I. He feels inferior to three young Italian soldiers he meets there as they got their medals for bravery while he got his for being an American. He also meets an older Italian major whose wife has recently died and who does not believe the hospital’s treatment is effective for any of its patients. “A Day’s Wait” fast-forwards several years to a middle-aged Nick who has a 9-year-old son Schatz. Schatz has the flu and a fever of 102; Nick gives him some medication and goes out to shoot quail, returning to find Schatz staring oddly at the foot of his bed. He discovers that Schatz has mistakenly believed he was going to die that day because he confused Fahrenheit for Celsius measurements on the thermometers. “Fathers and Sons” tells Nick’s final story as he takes his young son on a road trip and explores his deeply ambivalent feelings toward his often cruel, sometimes ignorant, and sometimes admirable father whose most notable positive contribution to his son’s life was the knowledge of how to shoot and fish. It is implied that Nick’s father died of a gunshot wound to the head. Nick also remembers his childhood summers in northern Michigan and how he had his first sexual experience with Trudy Gilby, a member of the Ojibway Native American tribe. In the present, Nick answers his son’s questions about his grandfather, promising to visit his grave in the future.

“Old Man at the Bridge” is the nonfiction account of Hemingway’s encounter with an old man sitting by the Amposta Bridge over the Ebro River on Easter Sunday in 1938. As he encourages the man to get up and flee the advancing Fascist army, the old man explains that he has spent his life caring for a menagerie of defenseless animals, and that he is too old and tired to get up and save his life.

“A Simple Enquiry” tells the story of three Italian officers stationed together in a small snowbound cabin during a war. A major is in charge of the outfit; he orders Tonani his adjutant to do paperwork while he takes a nap. Presently, he sends for Pinin, his orderly, and asks him if he is in love with a girl before sexually propositioning him. When Pinin fails to respond, the major dismisses him but wonders if he was lying.

“Up in Michigan” deals with the infatuation of a naïve young woman who works in a boarding house in a small Michigan town with the town blacksmith Jim Gilmore. After an evening of drinking, Jim brings Liz down to a warehouse on the dock and, in spite of Liz’s protests, arguably rapes her. Romantic disillusionment follows Liz’s first experience.