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In Our Time

Ernest Hemingway

Study Questions

Overall Analysis

Quiz

A rite of passage is a journey on which people--usually young men and women--go. Along the way, they learn lessons about themselves and about life. At the end, they are more mature than when they started. Does In Our Time show Nick Adams undergoing a rite of passage? Why?

Nick Adams goes through a rite of passage in In Our Time. In the first story that concerns Nick, "Indian Camp," he is a young and ignorant boy. He needs to ask his father about death and birth. Then, he goes through a series of episodes that render him an adult man by "Big Two-Hearted River." He falls in and out of love with Marjorie, he learns about being on the road from Ad Francis and Bugs, and he learns about friendship with Bill. In "Big Two-Hearted River," Nick is mature, ready to take his time, enjoy life, and be alone. He does not rush anything. Even though he is excited to fish, he makes sure that he eats breakfast. And Nick makes a nice (albeit temporary) home for himself on the bank of the river. Further, the landscape of his home reflects Nick’s change. Neither he nor his home are the same. Nick has become an adult.

How do the two stories "Out of Season" and "Cross-Country Snow" play off of each other? In other words, why would Hemingway juxtapose them?

The most interesting connection between these two stories is in their portrayal of relationships. In "Out of Season," Hemingway delineates an unsuccessful and uncomfortable relationship between a man and a woman. In "Cross-Country Snow," though, he paints a portrait of a successful male-male relationship. In both of these stories, the activities that the characters engage in are indicative of the success of the relationship. In “Out of Season,” the American husband wants to go fishing, but the wife is clearly reluctant. The two have had some sort of argument and cannot communicate. However, "Cross-Country Snow,"”shows two men happily skiing. The men talk some, but consciously decide not to try to express to each other the joy that they derive from skiing. Therefore, not only is the relationship successful, but the activity reflects that success in “Cross-Country Snow.” Interestingly, though, even as the two men get along well in the latter story, they do not communicate fluidly. Instead, they are most comfortable keeping their true feelings to themselves. Therefore, these two stories are important to put together because they seem to show a difference in relationships between men and women and those between two men. Yet, they also show the similarity of each of these types of relationships: a lack of communication.

What does the Three-Day Blow represent?

The Three-Day Blow is when, during the fall, the wind kicks up and blows all the leaves off the trees. It is just beginning when Nick Adams and Bill get together in the story of the same name. The Three-Day Blow can also represent a time in one’s life when all of the excess gets stripped away and only the most important things remain. For Nick and Bill, the important thing to remain is their masculinity, including their love of sports: fishing, hunting, and baseball. For him to become a strong, stoic, masculine man, Nick needs a strong wind to blow his emotions about Marjorie out of his system. Just as this wind prepares the trees for winter, blowing out his emotions will get Nick ready for a cold time in his life. He even says that the wind can blow away all of his worry and sadness. Of course, Nick is not sure that he is ready for such coldness. Part of him wants Marjorie back. But, Nick decides, at the end of the story, not to worry about Marjorie but to go hunting. He seems to be deciding to blow away all his softness and emotion.

What does the title "Big Two-Hearted River" mean?

How does Italy function in the stories, both as setting and as symbol?

Who is "The Battler"? Why would Hemingway name the story that rather than "The Fighter" or "The Boxer"?

How does the story "On the Quai at Smyrna" introduce some of the themes of In Our Time?

Discuss the theme of love in "The End of Something" and "A Very Short Story."

Why does the American wife have such an affection for the hotel operator in "Cat in the Rain"?

What is "Out of Season" in the short story of that name?

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On the Quai at Smyrna

by bhnnad, December 04, 2012

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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