A Very Short Story

I must admit, I have had a difficult time gathering thoughts containing much depth concerning Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time; that is not to say, however, that I have not extracted some meaningful qualities from the work. 

Hemingway’s concise nature is effective when he is at his most concise; that is, he convinces you through his word choices and sentence structure that there is no other bit of information you need in order to fully comprehend the given story/situation. If Hemingway fails to do so, one can begin to doubt the credibility of his representation of the story. This can be complicated (as I have found) when the reader makes the assumption that all of the information Hemingway reveals is all the information there is possible to reveal; Hemingway’s talent for being concise is not a talent at all, but a product of being in, at times, rather simple situations.

In “A Very Short Story”, Hemingway successfully articulates a story that convinces the reader all valuable information is present. Hemingway describes the relationship between the man and Luz, the feelings they had for each other, the downfall between the two, and, most importantly, the ending. If someone is to be punished for their behaviour, getting gonorrhea leaves no doubt to who is at fault.

Andrew Doughty

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10 thoughts on “A Very Short Story

  1. I don’t know about Hemingway being in simple situations. I know he was a journalist during a war, and his precise writing came from the fact that he had to send in a description of his surroundings in under 70 words. Yes, he may not have had many things around him, but his situation was stressful not simple. His talent IS talent; many people tried to imitate him for years. Writing without fillers is something many people try hard to accomplish for years.

    Savanna Beach

  2. Though Hemingway leaves me perplexed at times and even frustrates me by his (seemingly) lack of cohesion and details, his writing style is an art form. The simplest circumstances can result in rather lengthy and detailed narratives, take My Antonia for example. The simplicity of the circumstance doesn’t mandate a simple narrative. To the other extreme, Hemingway was witness to some very intense circumstances. The beauty of his writing is in his ability to form a shadow of the story, where you see what is going on but the colors are left out. I picture the children’s activity where you are given the numbers but you have to draw the lines, connecting the numbers to see the whole picture. I think that Hemingway’s simple writing technique was not due to his situations but his desire to cause the readers to draw their own conclusions and work for the picture that they want to see.
    ~Christina

  3. I, also, have to disagree with you on the point that you brought up stating Hemingway’s style is not an art, but rather a product of being in simple situations. He manages to take events and turn them into stories using only the bare minimum. Take “A Very Short Story” for instance, like you brought up. The ENTIRE story is two pages long, yet we see the rise and fall of a relationship. It spans a time frame that other writers would dedicate a novel too. Usually at the end of something so short, things seem unfinished. But I don’t feel that way in this situation. And I feel that it takes some sort of talent to make a reader feel something when you’re just writing about something so simple like a cat in the rain. Maybe Hemingway is the only one who can get away with something like this.

  4. I believe it is a talent actually to cut some much fluff out of his work when that’s exactly what writers want to do most. To me, I really enjoyed the story of about the women wanting to save the cat so much. Hemingway took something so mundane, so simple and made it interesting because his story wasn’t really about saving a cat from the rain or having a companion. The women goes on to tell the reader her deepest desires and she can’t do anything about them, she can’t even catch a kitty. Yet, the Italians almost see what she is going through and catch the cat for her, but her husband is completely oblivious all the while reading his newspaper. Hemingway uses his ex-acto knife and is able to write about blah murky ordinary day, but make the reader feel emotionally attached and related to the characters. Some of his work though, is hard for me to understand and relate to because of his omission but i believe Hemingway didn’t intentionally write so all his readers would understand what he as talking about.

  5. Hemingway’s style reminds me a lot of poetry in general. We briefly mentioned this last class, and also talked about the iceberg theory, where he intentionally leaves out 90% of what we are supposed to take away. Most poems are only a few lines or stanzas long, but can convey entire human emotions and lifetimes, and I think that is what Hemingway had managed to do in his writing. Not only are we reading short stories, but the sentences, subjects, and everything in between have a sense of direness in them. I also think that, in this particular short chapter, the length of the story mirrors the theme of young romance, and how things can grow and then fall apart so quickly. Luz kept repeating that their relationship was only a “boy and girl love.” Like they weren’t actually adults, but instead just children rushing into things. One of the longest sentences in the chapter is the last one, where we learn the fate of the boy, and how adulthood is gritty, dirty, and rushed, in the back of a taxi.

  6. I don’t know if I like Hemmingway’s simplistic style of writing. I think Hemmingway is over rated. I have never read a Hemmingway book prior to this but I have always heard a lot about him. I think that because society told me he was this awesome writer I expected to read the “Mona Lisa” of Literature. I was let down. Yes, he does have his own style that’s like no other but I was not impressed. The content of this book was much more exciting than that of the last book but Cather was a much better writer than Hemmingway in my opinion.
    Carolyn

  7. I would also have to respectfully disagree with your assumption about Hemingway presenting “simple situations”. Mainly because there really aren’t too many aspects of life that are full of complexity. I believe that we as a society, especially due to film and literature, expect life to be very extreme and dramatic; and unfortunately, it really isn’t. I believe that Hemingway presents a realistic account of how slow moving and drawn out life really is. I would actually argue, that his stories are full of action compared to the average day to day experiences that people take part in. We can also see this perspective through Cather’s writing. There are usually a couple events that really spark our interest and require further analysis, but for the most part, our simplistic encounters and activities are rarely worth noting.

    ZT

  8. I think what Hemingway does so elegantly is present complex situations as simple situations. We can choose to skim the surface and take everything at face value, or we can delve into the depths and get an understanding. Take in mind that he presents his characters as they themselves would view the events; there is no ceaseless narration driving us to distraction with repetition of childish literary devices (the eyes are windows to the souls). Instead, the reader is left with a feeling after the story if we choose to accept it. My Old Man is about a cheater and the kid doesn’t understand that the nice ladies looking for someone to take them to dinner are prostitutes.

    Hemingway chooses not to bash us over the head with commentary. Sure, it’s been done since and done better (9 Stories by Salinger), but it’s honest and direct… the conversations are real, have the same undertones that a real conversation would. We are eavesdroppers on conversations trying to figure out the meaning.

    -luke

  9. I really liked this story and I agree with all the aforementioned appraisals of Hemingway’s style as a challenge and an art form. “A Very Short Story” is a prime example of this— In two pages the story shows how war occupies a different reality than the “every day”—I think that his relationship with Luz develops ‘so intensely’ because of the circumstances they are in—once separated from that specific environment the relationship is interpreted as ‘boy girl love’. I think the relationship could not exist outside of the wartime reality which made up the intensity and feeling of the relationship entirely… this is contrasted with the type of relationships he has in ‘every day society’– fleeting, indifferent, anonymous: “…he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park”. Ultimately, I think that while his style is concise it still leaves room for interpretation and (much) inference.
    -Alyssa

  10. Andrew,
    Nice post. Hemingway’s writing aggravated me more than it pleased me. I am not used to reading such works like his. So, when he crams a story in 2-3 pages or less, I begin to question the quality of his work. He does do a good job of providing details but still leaves much wanted details and more of the story.

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