Dick Boulton, his son Eddy, and another Indian, Billy Tabeshaw arrive from the Indian camp to saw wood for Nick's father. They find the logs at the lake shore. These logs fell off the steamer Magic. Typically, lost logs such as these drift to shore. Then, in a couple of weeks, the crew of the Magic comes on shore to claim them. But they might never be claimed, in which case they would just rot. Nick's father has decided to take the logs, assuming they would not be claimed. He hired the Indians to come from the camp and cut the logs. The hired men put down their tools. Dick tells Nick's father that he has stolen a lot of nice wood. The doctor immediately takes offense to that comment, especially when Dick looks to see what company it is from (by the markings on the ends). Nick's father becomes uncomfortable and tells them that they can leave if they do not believe that the wood is his. Nick's father storms off, and the men leave.
Inside, his wife asks if something is wrong. He tells her that he had a fight with Dick. He tells her that he did not lose his temper. She gives him religious advice (she's a Christian Scientist). He loads and unloads a shotgun. She asks again what the fight was about. Nick's father finally says that Dick owes him money for helping his wife get over pneumonia and that he probably picked a fight so that he would not have to work off his debt. Nick's mother tells him that a man would not do such a thing. The doctor tells his wife that he is going out. She asks him to send Nick inside. The door slams behind him. She gasps. He apologizes, and she swiftly forgives him. When he sees Nick, he tells him that his mother wants him. Nick says that he wants to go with his father, and his father lets him come.
This story expands on the theme of masculinity to examine male-male and male-female relationships. The interaction between Nick's father and Dick reveals the importance of pride in male-male relationships. Even though everyone knows what the doctor is doing with the logs, the doctor cannot simply give in to Dick's tormenting. Dick and the other men also understand the doctor's reaction. He could not take such abuse from Dick. However, in the doctor's relationship with his wife, such understanding does not exist. Nick's father does not want to answer her questions, and, when he does, he lies to her. He seems to assume that she will not understand his reasoning. Plus, the doctor's wife's religious insistence that he not lose his temper shows that she does not want him to be stereotypically male: aggressive and territorial. Further, her religion, Christian Science, does not believe in medicine, which means that she has no respect for his chosen profession. Nick's father decides to go hunting, where he can express his masculinity. When Nick decides to go with him, then, Nick too is showing an interest in male-male interaction over male-female interaction.
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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