The narrator and others are setting up to execute cabinet ministers. Five of them stand quietly against the wall, amid the puddles and strewn leaves from a heavy rain. The final minister is suffering from typhoid and will not stand up. Finally, they decide to let him sit. He is sitting in the water when they fire the first round of bullets.
This story is told in an even colder manner than the others. Hemingway drains his prose of any emotion or feeling. By doing so, the executions, with one sick minister, seem even sadder. After all, the narrator cannot even bring himself to engage in the act: he wants to separate himself from the event by discussing it as a distant phenomenon.
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).