The king, laboring in the garden, seems pleased to see the narrator. They stroll around the garden. The king introduces the queen, who is trimming a rose bush. They sit down and the king orders a whiskey and soda. He tells the narrator that the revolutionary committee would not let him leave the palace complex. He says that Plastiras is a good man, but a difficult one. He says that he thinks Plastiras did right shooting those men. If Kerensky had shot men, though, it would have been different. Of course, the thing to do in this situation is not get shot. The whole thing is merry and the two talked for a while. "Like all Greeks, he wanted to go to America."
This story is almost surreal in style. The surrealists emerged at roughly the same time as the modernists and emphasized revealing the psychology of human beings and social situations. Often their artwork, literature, and film took on a dreamy, unreal quality. This story also seems like a dream, but Hemingway is making some statements with it. World War I meant the end of several kingdoms and the beginning of several Communist revolutions. Therefore, this story pictures a king as he is now, having to labor under house arrest. Plus, he lives like a normal man, having to order his drinks. In addition, this story ties into the theme of male-female relationships as the queen is estranged from the two gentlemen.
When the men talk about Plastiras killing someone being a different case from Kerensky doing it, Hemingway seems to be using their obviously ethnic names to tell them apart. As far is the reader is concerned, neither of these men is familiar. Yet, their names identify them as Greek and perhaps Polish. If the Polish man killed someone, it would be a different story from the Greek man doing it. In other words, prejudices are completely arbitrary. Finally, Hemingway indicates at the end of the story that America is coming into great power. While the Greek civilization is known as the first Western empire, all Greeks want to go to America, which, from its involvement in World War I, is rising as the new dominant world power.
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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