This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The End of Something” (1925) by Ernest Hemingway. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and message.
American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) is considered a key figure in twentieth-century literature. He belongs to the literary current called Modernism and has won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. The short story “The End of Something” features Nick Adams, a fictional character who is partially autobiographical. The plot of the story has also been inspired by real events in the life of the author from when he was a teenager and had a relationship with a girl called Marjorie Bump.
Excerpt from the study guide:
Hortons Bay, the former lumber town, symbolizes the end of Nick and Marjorie’s relationship. Hortons Bay is now deserted because of the collapse of the lumber industry. The state of the town is symbolic of the end of Nick and Marjorie’s relationship. Similarly, the mill becomes symbolic of the breakup of the relationship.
The act of fishing is also symbolic of Nick and Marjorie. Marjorie loves fishing and enjoys the activity, and also obeys Nick and makes an effort to help the fish strike. This is symbolic of the effort she puts into maintaining her relationship with Nick. Nick’s inability to connect with Marjorie mirrors the fish that “won’t strike”. At the same time, during fishing, Nick is the controlling one, while Marjorie obeys him.
Silence and distance are also important symbols in the story. Nick and Marjorie eat “without talking” and sit “on the blanket without touching each other”. When Nick makes fun of her, Marjorie remains silent. The silence and distance between the two suggest that they are not compatible and that their relationship is not going to work out.