Written by Earnest Hemingway, “The Killers”, is a short story about two hit men planning to kill a boxer for a “friend” in Henry’s Lunchroom and Nick is involved in it. The plot can be divided into three parts according to the shifting of places. The first part is happening in a lunchroom where Nick is at. The killers come to order food there then tie up Nick as well as the cook, aiming to wait for the person they want to kill to come.
In the end the boxer doesn’t show up and they do not hurt anybody there. The action develops in typical Hemingway style-short sentences and dialogues. The second part narrates the heroic behavior of Nick who taking the risk to find the boxer and telling him what is going to happen to him. In the last part, Nick returns to the lunchroom failing to persuade the one who is about to be killed, to go out of town. Contrarily, Nick Adams leaves the town because of finding brutality.
As far as the character is concerned, Nick Adams, a typical Hemingway’s hero, is the only round character in the short fiction. He is an adolescent in “the killers”, experiencing the horrifying event and after that he turns to a mature young man from an innocent boy by acknowledging the horrifying violence in the world. The rest of the characters, including Max and Al, the two killers, the cook named Sam, the waiter named George, and the boxer called Ole Anderson, are all foils.
They don’t undergo any changes and growth from the beginning to the end of the story. They are just the instruments to help Nick learn about the chaos in the town, the inevitability of death, and find there are people who don’t care about others’ lives. 130 When it comes to the theme, Hemingway illustrates that the unexplained and unreasonable violence is an integral part of human society.
The two hit men want to kill a person just in Henry’s Lunchroom in a town of Chicago, which indicates that the whole world seems to be chaos and the crimes are so close to the common folk. Nick as every other adolescent has to acknowledge the cruelties of life by experiencing the horrifying events that cannot be denied. In spite of the hardship to realizing the evil, Nick gains his maturity and it marks his initiation into adult world. “The Killers” also is endowed with the theme of revealing the inevitability of death.
When Nick tells Ole Anderson the killers want to kill him at the lunchroom, he just keeps telling Nick “there is not anything he can do about it” and he does not decide to run out of the town but waits in the same place. As an experienced adult, Anderson knows wherever he runs the hit men would find him, so he is just tired of “all that running around” and to come to terms with the fact that cannot escape. 196 As for the language style, the crowning situational irony, if any, should account the contrast between the toughness and the sensitivity, the violence and the sensitivity of Anderson.
As a boxer, he contains the character of violence, at the same time, he is a very nice man, just as Mrs. Bell says in the story–”He’s an awfully nice man. He was in the ring. You’d never know it except from the way his face is. ” When he knows there are killers who want to kill him, he shows his toughness as a typical Hemingway hero, therefore he does not even want to escape. Meanwhile, the more natural human emotion does let out from him unconsciously, such as his non-stopping look at the wall.