The funicular car stops. Nick, possibly Nick Adams, and Uncle George ski out. They take several long hills, intoxicated by the feeling of dropping and climbing. Nick is going too fast and he knows it. He hits some soft snow and tumbles. George calls him "Mike." The two continue, George following Nick. At the bottom of the next hill, the two head on a flat path over to a small lodge. Inside are two Swiss men, smoking pipes and drinking. Nick orders a bottle of wine, which the two men drink. Nick tries to express how much he loves skiing. George says that it is "too swell to talk about." When the waitress returns, Nick realizes that she is pregnant but unmarried (she is wearing no ring). He explains to George that she must be touchy because of those two facts. George orders some strudel. George and Nick are pleased to be sitting with each other. They like each other. George has to go back to school, though. They talk about wishing that they could ski in Switzerland forever. George asks if Helen is going to have a baby. Nick answers yes and says that the two of them will probably go back to the States even though neither of them wants to return. There, he can find no good skiing. George and Nick are afraid they will never ski together again. They get ready to leave. At least they have the chance to ski home together.
This story shows typical Hemingway male bonding. These two men enjoy a physical activity together, but do not insist upon talking about it. In fact, George even says that skiing is too good to talk about. So, they do not. They keep their feelings to themselves because they seem to intuitively understand each other. This seems to be the complete opposite of female bonding, as shown in "Mr. And Mrs. Elliot," where Cornelia and her girlfriend have long cries together. For these men, the greatest pleasure comes from silent enjoyment of their activities. And, they do not become emotional about leaving each other. Instead, they talk about the possibility of future skiing together.
These two men seem very close. Yet, throughout the story, George calls Nick "Mike." Whether this is a nickname or whether it reveals a deception on Nick's part, this name has significance. It reveals that though the two men are close, they do not reveal their true selves to each other. Instead, they put up false fronts, perhaps to avoid becoming too close.
Sparknotes' commentary for On the Quai at Smyrna seems to have quite a few historical errors. The commentary states that the narrator is likely talking about the Greek evacuation of Thrace, but the title is On the Quai at Smyrna. Smyrna is a city in modern-day Turkey (now called Izmir). The Christian (mainly Greek and Armenian) part of Smyrna was burned in 1922 after the Turks recaptured the city from the Greeks. Hemingway was actually in Turkey just after the Great Fire to cover the Greco-Turkish War as a correspondent for the Toronto Star.... Read more→
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I think it is difficult to talk about this short story without acknowledging the use of literary minimalism. Several pieces of information are left out of the text but most readers come to the conclusion that Mrs. Elliot is a lesbian. Her marriage to Hubert is one of convenience, and her desire to have a baby is, arguably, to prove that she is not Lesbian (or just so that she can live in the current society without being judged).
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