At first glance unusually normal, at second glance unusually striking, the title “A Very Short Story” reveals Hemingway’s perception of a perhaps unforgotten war experience. Man went to war. He met woman. They spent many nights together. They considered marriage. He went home without her. She moved on. He moved on. The end. The story, the relation of events, is indeed short. This is not eternal spiritual love; instead, this is the animalistic, barbaric sexual act- sex and love for the sole purpose and convenience of sex itself. Then it is over.
The story begins on “ONE HOT evening in Padua” (Hemingway, 65), “hot” relating to passionate feelings, and “evening” as the perfect time for an affair. The reader can deduct from the reference to Padua, a city in northeast Italy, that perhaps the character is at war, and in fact, this is confirmed in the fourth paragraph with a reference of an “armistice” (65). The main character himself is referred to as “he”, though, knowing the author’s biographical history, and presence in the war, “Hemingway” is a presumable substitution. “They” (65), his war buddies, “carried him up onto the roof”, they carried him because he was injured, but also, as “the others went down and took the bottles with them”, very likely intoxicated. There, he and the female figure, “Luz” meet, she “sat on the bed”, and “was cool and fresh in the hot night”. Immediately, alcohol, guy and girl, a rather convenient bed, and a “hot” night left alone on the rooftop combine, forming a passionate love affair.
So, who is this Luz? Well, apparently, as she was “on night duty” (65), and she was the one who “prepared him for the operating table”, she is a…
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…ncoln Park.” (66).
Man went to war. He met woman. They spent many nights together. They considered marriage. He went home without her. She moved on. He moved on. The end.
It is a short story, and it is a simple one. Simple attraction of the opposite sexes. Simple sex. Simple break up. Simple recovery. Without the talk of marriage, it resembles any animal mating ritual on the Discovery Channel.
Interesting that the story ends with the onslaught of gonorrhea, as the cycle is continued, and thus, the simple recovery transforms magically to painful consequences. Perhaps, in Hemingway’s own life, the simple recovery of losing a mistress after the war transforms and somehow contributes partly to his own suicide many years later.
Hemingway, Ernest. “A Very Short Story.” In Our Time. New York: Simon
Essay Comparing Hemingway’s A Very Short Story and Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise
Comparing Hemingway’s A Very Short Story and Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise
When you first read a tragic, melodramatic love scene you feel like your heart is breaking too. Sometimes you cry. It is only after the initial rush of feelings that you begin to feel cheated. Usually the kind of writing that gives you the urge to be demonstrative does not stay with you as long as something more subtle. In Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, the reader is presented with such a love scene in the form of a play. I admit to having sobbed for a solid minute after reading about the ill-fated romance between Amory Blaine and Rosalind Connage. However, the same subject, with different characters, told in a much more concise, objective manner in Ernest Hemingway’s A Very Short Story had a much deeper effect on me.
It may be that the honesty of experience had much to do with the differences between the stories. This Side of Paradise is often seen as a loosely based autobiography, but there is no direct basis in reality for the Amory and Rosalind episode. Fitzgerald did have a turbulent relationship with his wife Zelda, but the tragic parting in the novel and Rosalind’s later marriage to another man firmly place the story in the realm of fiction. Hemingway’s account of the meeting and parting of two lovers, on the other hand, comes directly from his own life. While there is a feeling in This Side of Paradise that Fitzgerald is trying too hard to make the story realistic, Hemingway’s account cannot help but convey the honesty that is generally found when a writer draws directly on his own experience.
The style and structure of the Hemingway story also make it more believable and more effective. Even the…
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…ing in a taxi cab through Lincoln Park,” that Hemingway’s protagonist tried to forget about his lost love by indulging in the more shallow gratification of easy sex. Fitzgerald’s Amory Blaine turns to alcohol instead, but the concept is the same. However, after nine pages of Amory’s bar exploits we have already begun to forget what the problem was in the first place.
Two more disparate accounts of a short-lived love would be difficult to find. Each is successful in its own way. The Fitzgerald version elicited an immediate and powerful reaction from me, but it was the Hemingway story that made me understand the subject more deeply. While A Very Short Story, at first glance, may seem unable to convey the depth and breadth of feeling of the longer Fitzgerald passage, it actually accomplishes its aim more quickly without sacrificing meaning.