Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women-from the Undefeated to the Killers
English and Literature
Submitted By jeje94
MEN WITHOUT WOMEN by Ernest Hemingway (1928) - The Undefeated - In Another Country - Hills Like White Elephants- The Killers
This short story reflects the courage, or rather recklesness, of a bullfighter called Manuel Garcia. As the title of the collection infers, none of the characters (which are all men) appear to be in touch with, engaged or married to any female. The setting is in Spain, which is indicated by the use of pesatas as currency and Madrid as a road to success according to the bullfighters. So, we may guess the author took his experience from his professional travels as a journalist. This tale is mostly about the way poor and unskilled men cope in a society ruled by corrida organizers as Don Miguel Retana. “If you stand in with Retana in this town, you're a made man” […] “If you aren't in with him you might just as well go out and shoot yourself” (cue from a waiter of the café before the Puerta del Sol) is a sign of the brutality of a community within which everybody ought to abide by Retana's rules. It is also a way to emphasize upon some sort of injustice set up by few men acting almost as mafia bosses. And Manuel, and his late brother, are victims of the system. The former already started getting rejected on the grounds of his being too old and therefore unpopular (as his aging weakens his abilities on the bull ring). However, not being able to make two ends meet, Manuel is compelled to fight in a nocturnal. He requires the help of a gifted picador (older than he is) named Zurito. The next day's night, both fight the first bull with Fuentes (an apt youngster). Following several successful stunts, Manuel faces shame after having accidentally thrown his sword in the audience. Emboldened by the public's response and the bull's overwhelming resistance, “the undefeated” ultimately vanquishes the beast despite his injuries. This short-story shows Hemingway's well-known fascination for this entertainment and shapes a moving story of sacrifice and lawless submission.
CORRIDA LEXICON : Picador : Torero on horseback whose role consists in annoying the bull and sticking a long spear (called “vara”) made out of beech into the it. The weapon is ended by a triangular steel point named “puya”
Coleta : also called “pigtail”, is a strand of hair worn by the toreros on foot which symbolizes their professional activity. Hence “Cutting the Coleta” means bringing an end to one's career.
Paseo (paseíllo) : Parade led by the matadors as opening ceremony of corridas Novillos : young bull used during corridas for young toreros (novilleros)
Muleta : name of the stick that the red cloth hangs from Cuadrilla : Team of bullfighters consisting in two matadors on foot and three peones Tercio : set of trials during a corrida, composed of three stages : picador tercio, banderillo tercio, muleta tercio
Matadors : leader of the cuadrilla whose role is to execute the bull
Peones : substitute preparing the matador and picadores during the different stages of the corrida, also acting as Banderillo and Puntillero
Banderillos : bullfighters who have to stick the banderillas during the second tercio
2-IN ANOTHER COUNTRY
Having worked as an ambulance driver on the Italian front at the end of the First World War, Hemingway is unsurprisingly commited to the invalids' cause in this second moving story. The scene takes place in Milan, Italy, through its streets and in its hospital. Two men, the narrator and an unamed man only called “the major” are strongly advised by a doctor to work with the help of “machines” in order to recover from their injuries. The narrator appears to have a problem with his leg and his neighbour cannot properly use one of his hands, which is as small as a baby's. The doctor ceaslessly comes back to them so that they feel more confident with some pictures of miracle recoveries they are shown. But “Major”'s case would be likely not to be far from hopeless. The narrator is also acquainted with three other fellows. The youngest and smallest of them got his face seriously wounded and lost his nose. He had come from the Military Academy before seeing all his hopes vanish on his first day on the front line. One of the two others ought to have become a lawyer and the other a painter. They all bear the same medal as a remembrance of their wasted hopes and limbs, except the one who should have been a lawyer (who had two other “copies” of the medal (as he had been a lieutenant of Arditi)). The narrator acknowledges that no particular friendship bounds were ever forged between them and asserts that the only common point of their similar conditions had made them gather together. Then, the narrator finds out more about Italian grammar and admits that the language is not as easy to know as he thought. So he undertakes to learn with some help from the major. The latter's state of mind sounds as near depression as ever whilst he is informed about his wife's unexpected death. The conclusion of this story is ladden with uncertainties and sadness as the major ignores the pictures brought by the doctor. Indeed, no one might be capable of making him overcome his mourning and his grief. So we do have a critic of the battlefield as a place for glory (or of the typical propaganda in general).
3-HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS
This story is a 35-minute dialogue set in the valley of the Ebro, Spain. An American man is having a drink with a young woman (“girl”) who may be either his fiancée, his wife or his unofficial partner (girlfriend). The first paragraph is a mere description of the surrounding landscape (train station, rail tracks, bar, hills) as well as information about the characters' purpose in being here. Indeed, they appear to be waiting for a train coming from Barcelona to Madrid. Both of the latters' sole entertainment consists in tasting different drinks and comparing them (beer, Anis del Toro) : “that's all we do, isn't it-look at things and try new drinks ?”. However, the woman called (or nicknamed) “Jig” sounds perhaps a little bit more absentminded than her companion. As a matter of fact, the title of the short-story comes from her saying “They look like white elephants” while gazing at the hills (which actually contrast with the “brown and dry” countryside => white colour might draw a parallel with a baby's skin). The second part of the conversation shows some signs of tensions as the man gets angry for a matter of no importance : “Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything”. Still, the dialogue carries on about the beverages served at the bar, until the man mentions “an awfully simple operation”. Through her reaction, we might deduce the girl is quite concerned about undergoing surgery : “The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on”. Although the reader is not given any accurate information about the actual circumstances, we can clearly notice that it can be defined as the matter of a pregnancy (abortion => “it's just to let the air in”). The girl is apparently anxious about them ever being happy in the future, which leads us to think that their marital situation is not as joyful as it may have sounded at first. “No we can't, it isn't ours anymore” probably deals with dreams which have never been fulfilled. Even though the American man strives to make her believe in some kind of merry existence with him, she throws it all in his face.The woman mentions succesful instances by quoting friends whereas her partner emphasizes upon her willpower, as the only one responsible for her decisions to come. The former is definitely fretting more about her perspective on life than about the aggravating of her physical state. Upon the other hand, her partner is willing to show some support and love : “I don't want anybody but you. I don't want anyone else” Both she and her companion share opposite views about the current situation, as their parts in it a quite different. “I'll scream” is a way for the girl to prove that the man cannot pretend to be in her shoes. “And I know it's perfectly simple” indicates that the man aims at downplaying the seriousness of his beloved's choice to be made. She ultimately turns out to be easily unnerved, or stressed, by him : “Would you please (x7) stop talking ?” But, somehow, her mood changes before the final sentence : “She smiled at him”. To conclude, one cannot deny a certain feeling of embarassment for the couple, as the situation pits the lovers in a way that makes any agreement rather difficult to attain. This time, Hemingway advocates the women's cause. Moreover, the reader may imagine the true circumstances that may occur during an abortion in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Once more a man finds himself alone as his partner's situation and character do not allow him to take part in her life as the hesitating bearer of a child.
Hemingway comes back to America in this thrilling episode of gangsters and dangers. This time, the writer explores another universe with no women, as dangerous as the war but more helpless than a battlefield. Hereupon, we do have this underworld with no comrades, only victims and kings. No wife because even females would be of no use. Al is a simple caricature of Capone. At first, we do not expect him and his sidekick, Max, to own the place. However, as soon as bullying cues such as “bright boy” make their appearance, we can see that something wrong is actually happening. George, Nick Adams, Ole Anderson and Sam are twice more numerous than the duet of killers but fear is often more effective than violence. Even the reader is quite afraid of reaching an inevitable conclusion of blood in the dark. Nobody can be of any help to Anderson. Mrs Bell and the restaurant's clients are kept unaware for their safety. Because no one is ever genuinely safe in this invisible world of whispers and gun reports. “The Killers” is a tale of fatality in the middle of a constant battle of men where might is obviously right. From the moment we understand Max's and Al's point in bullying Nick and George, there is no surprise or twist anymore. Only remains the terrifying cerebral screams of inocent men caught amidst a fog of hazard and death. In this unknown American city (as famous as may be the inspirational existing pattern), life is always a losing game for the people who are determined not to forget and forsake morals. And once you choose to forget them, you cannot change your mind without suffering the unavoidable consequences.