Sam Cardinella was hanged at 6 A.M. at the county jail. The five men to die were in the cells on the top floor. They were all afraid. Two of the men were white and three were black. They entered the gallows from a door in the wall. Two priests were with them. They had to carry Sam because he was so afraid. As they strapped his legs together, a priest whispered to him "Be a man, my son." He lost control and voided his bowels. The men holding him dropped him, disgusted. They put him on a chair. A priest knelt next to him. The priest moved just before he fell.
Although many of the characters in Hemingway's stories confront death, usually in war or bullfighting, few acknowledge how frightening it is. This story tells the reader how scary walking into one's own death can be. Yet, this is exactly what soldiers and bullfighters do. In addition, these men are asked to be manly, which means not to show emotion or fear. Even the priest, who is supposed to be understanding, tells the criminal to "be a man."
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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