Ernest Hemingway - The Killers - Referat
4. What does the story want to tell us?
Ernest Hemingway’s short story „The Killers“ is about two men – the killers – , who got a mission (=Auftrag) from a friend to kill a man, named Ole Andreson. The story takes place at a lunch counter (=Imbisslokal) in a small town. At the beginning of the story two men, their names are Al and Max, walk into the lunch counter. After deciding what they want to order (=bestellen) they start to ask questions to the owner, named George, about one of his regular customers Ole Andreson and what is his usual time to visit the lunch counter. After obtaining (=beschaffen) that information the two men put Sam the cook and Nick Adams who is a customer into the kitchenroom. By asking questions they reveal (=enthüllen, aufdecken) that the two mysterious men are going to kill Anderson. Al says to George that he has to remain at the front of the lunch counter with Max while he goes into the kitchen and ties (=zusammenbinden) Sam the cook and Nick up. After a few hours of waiting passes by (=vorbeigehen) without a sign of Ole Andreson, Max and Al leave the restaurant. George goes into the kitchen and unties Sam and Nick. Nick decides that he needs to go to tell Ole Andreson that the two men are looking for him and want to kill him. When he arrives at Hirsh's rooming house the landlady (=Hausbesitzerin) tells him that Andreson hasn’t come out all the day. The landlady shows Nick Andreson's room and he goes in. Nick finds (=auffinden) Andreson lying on the bed. He delivers his message but Andreson tells Nick that he knows that the two men are looking for him and want to kill him but he is tired of running away and decides to stay where he is. Nick doesn’t understand this. Nick then returns to the lunch counter and tells George what happened in the Hirsh's rooming house. George suppose (=vermuten) that the two men are probably looking for Andreson because he double-crossed (=betrügen) somebody. Both men agree that something “damned awfully” is going to happen to Andreson. George advises Nick not to think about what is going to happen to Andreson. Nick then decides to leave the small town.
- Max: he seems to be the silly and sentimental (=gefühlvoll) one of the two hitmen (=Auftragskiller) because he speaks too much with George. In the end he even says that he likes George. He is are criminal, but also satirist and most parts of his dialogue are ironic ( he says to George: “just a bright boy…”) like Al.
Appearance: no details
- Al: He is are criminal, but also satirist and most parts of his dialogue are ironic like Max one’s. He is the dominating of the two hitmen.
Appearance: he wears a derby hat (Melone -> Hut) and a black overcoat buttoned across the chest and a silk muffler (=Schaal) and gloves, his face is small and white and he has tight lips.
-->in the scene the two hitmen are chilling, but definitely funny. The narrator even describes them as a comedic ‘vaudeville team’ after they’ve left the diner.
- George: He seems to be the owner or the waiter of Henry’s eating-house. Although the two armed men are there he doesn’t show any fear nor is he nervous. He is composed (=gefasst).
- Nick Adams: He is only a underpart (=Nebenrolle) in the scene. Later, when, in his innocence and motivation, he wants to “rescue” Ole, he gets importance. The reader notes that Nick is stunned (=fassungslos) and disappointed (=enttäuscht) about the situation and the reaction of Ole. He learns that death is inevitable. He is no longer the innocent person he was at the beginning of the story. So Nick changes and grows during the course of the story.
- Sam: he is the cook in the lunch-room. He is called “the nigger” by George. This is the only detail about his appearance. Later, one notice, that he is scared and don’t want to be part of any trouble and says that it is “better not having anything to do with it at all” . In the end he brings out (=betonen) that he isn’t interested in Nick’s story and “doesn’t even listen to it (Nick’s story)”. He is smart because it is a wise decision to stay out of trouble.
- Ole Anderson: he was in the ring, so he is a boxer, you can see this on his face. Usually never misses suppertime at the lunch-room. The reader can notice that he is tired of running away and wants to face the problems in a passive way (he doesn’t go out and holes up (=sich verkriechen) in his room. He speaks in a flat voice without motivation and it seems that he is resigned to the fact (=er hat sich damit abgefunden) and his destiny.
- Street-car-motorman: he comes in and asks for supper, but he goes up the street after George tells him that the cook has gone out.
- A man, customer: he comes in the lunch-room and wants to eat something. He gets very angry when George tells him that the cook has gone out.
- Mrs. Bell: she is not the landlady of Hirsch’s rooming house, she only look after it for the landlady. She tells Nick that Ole has been in his room all day and she was the one who tried to convince Ole to take a walk. But she thinks that he doesn’t feel well.
This story is written in a documentary style. The sentences are short and Hemingway doesn’t let us know what is on the minds of his characters except through their speech. It is told from a third person point of view. We don’t get to know the thoughts of the people, only what they say and do. We must determine (=feststellen) what the story wants to say with these things. This point of view style is a form of “modernist story telling”.
What does the story want to tell us?
A close reading of this story shows us that death is inevitable and that people learn and grow through their experiences and you can’t escape death. Ex-fighter Ole Andreson has experienced this in this story. It seems that he was running away from Max and Al, but at the end of the story he stop running (Ole say very often “no” to Nicks motivating questions, so you notice, there is no way Ole can escape): it follows an abstract
“Nick looked at the big man lying on the bed.
Don’t you want me to go and see the police? - No, Ole Andreson said. That wouldn’t do any good.
Isn’t there something I could do? - No. There ain’t anything to do.
Maybe it was just a bluff. - No. It ain’t just a bluff.
Ole Andreson rolled over toward the wall.
Couldn’t you get out of town? - No, Ole Andreson said. I’m through with all that running around.
He looked at the wall.
There ain’t anything to do now. – Couldn’t you fix it up some way?
No. I got in wrong. He talked in the same flat voice. There ain’t anything to do. After a while I’ll make up my mind to go out. “
Ole Andreson has accepted the fact that he is going to die. He knows that the death will get him, trying to run away from it won’t help him. There is nothing that he can do that will save him from his death. Nick has also learned this through his experience during this story.
The development from innocence to experience is another theme of this story. At the beginning of the story Nick seems to be naive. He doesn’t understand that death is inevitable. When he leaves Andreson’s house he realise that there is more in life than he knows. He makes the decision to leave the town. The thought (=Gedanke) that both someone he knows is going to die makes Nick scared and about what is going to happen to Ole Andreson. it follows an abstract, which shows this situation and Nick’s fear (although Nick has not acquired (=erreichen) all of the experience he seems to be on the way to learn it, at the end of the story we can see Nick’s transformation from innocence to experience):
“I’m going to get out of this town, Nick said. - Yes, said George. That’s a good thing to do.
I can’t stand to think about him waiting in the room and knowing he’s going to get it. It’s too damned awful.
Well, said George, you better not think about it.”
George knows that Andreson’s death is inevitable so he tells Nick that he shouldn’t think about it. Although Nick hasn’t acquired all of the experience he seems to be on the way to learn it.
I didn’ find out who has the lead part (=Hauptrolle). When you read the topic it seems to be the two killers but it could also be Andreson, Nick or George. But although the story is named “The Killers” it’s Nick who is most affected (=betroffen) by what he learns during the course (=Ablauf) of the story. Max, Al, and Andreson are just there to help Nick learn about the inevitability (= Unvermeidlichkeit) of death. Max and Al don’t seem to be different as to the beginning. It is Nick that changes and grows during the course of the story. He also learns that there are people in the world who are not good and don’t care about others. The other characters are important to Nick’s growth in the story.
Andreson is the most important person in the story: He helps Nick to understand the inevitability of death. If Nick hadn’t talked with Andreson, Nick wouldn’t have made the change from innocence to experience. George and Sam are constant (=gleichbleibend) characters in this story because they don’t change. You notice that George understands the meaning of death. Sam doesn’t understand it at any point in the story. The hitmen don’t change, too. They only see the murder of Andreson as a job.
There is an important part in the story: Nick and Sam are placed into the kitchen of the lunch counter. George remains at the front of the restaurant with Max while Al stays in the kitchen area with the other two. This separation helps us to see the understanding of the meaning of death of each man.
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