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E. Hemingway and Short Stories - Project

Ernest Hemingway. Foto.

Even though Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) published many novels, he earned his reputation as one of the greatest authors of all time through his short stories.

Hemingway was just 22 years old when his alter ego, Nick Adams, appeared in his first short story. Nick is the protagonist in more than twenty stories and he draws on Hemingway's own experiences as a young man in Chicago and North Michigan and his service as an ambulance driver in Italy in WW1. The stories we suggest below are stories of adolescence and young experience that may make an interesting basis for an in-depth assignment.

Competence Aims

If you read a selection of English language literature from the 1900s (e.g. the texts listed below) and choose to elaborate on a topic that is curricular in this Social Studies English course, you'll combine these two aims:

  • tolke minst ett større skjønnlitterært verk og en film og et utvalg av annen engelskspråklig litteratur fra 1900-tallet og fram til i dag
  • presentere et større fordypningsarbeid med emne fra samfunnsfaglig engelsk og vurdere prosessen

(From the Teaching Plan in Social Studies English)

A project should be an extensive work, and depending on your approach, you may also include these aims:

  • drøfte hvordan sentrale historiske hendelser og prosesser har påvirket utviklingen av det amerikanske og det britiske samfunnet
  • drøfte spørsmål knyttet til sosiale og økonomiske forhold i noen engelskspråklige land
  • analysere en regional eller internasjonal konflikt der minst ett engelskspråklig land er involvert
  • drøfte aktuelle debattema i den engelskspråklige verden

(From the Teaching Plan in Social Studies English)

Short Stories

The first story where Nick Adams appears is in "Indian Camp" from 1925. He appears in many stories in which he is often exposed to cruelty that he has to find a grown-up way to cope with. In this short story he is on his way to an Indian camp where one of the women is going to give birth. If Nick ever thought babies were delivered by storks, his experience this night crushes the illusion. This is also the night where he learns how fragile life is.


Indian camp

Indian Camp by Ernest Hemingway

The short story "The Killers" was written in 1926, at a time when American prohibition against the production, distribution and consumption of alcohol was at its height. This gave rise to the American mafia and criminal activity which flourished in particular in Chicago, where gangster leaders such as Al Capone ruled. "The Killers" is set against this backdrop.

Scene med skuespillerne Burt Lancaster og Ava Gardner i filmen The Killers

Scene from the film [i]The Killers[/i] (1947)

The Killers

Love is complicated - get ready to meet a couple at the very crisis in their relationship. If things are complicated with you and your partner any place could be the "battlefield", couldn't it? In this story a railway station provides the setting. In such a public place someone might eavesdrop on your conversation. At this station in a remote place in Spain there is someone observing a young American couple having a row, or are they really quarelling?

Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

Suggested Topics

Based on these stories you may:

  • Compare and discuss initiation and young experience in the 1920s and 30s with growing up in the USA today.
  • Ernest Hemingway belonged to the "Lost Generation". Does this generation have anything in common with young people today?
  • Compare and discuss crime in the USA in the 1920s and 30s with crime in the suburbs today. (e.g. as depicted in The Wire)
  • Read biographical details about Ernest Hemingway. To what extent is Nick Adams his alter ego? (You may read all the Nick Adams stories online)
  • Discuss abortion.
  • Discuss gender issues.
  • Discuss his heroes. Are they heroes and antiheroes?
  • Discuss issues related to Native Americans.
  • Discuss attitudes towards indigenous people.
  • Discuss the American Dream.
  • Discuss issues related to Ernest Hemingway's characteristic writing style. He demands a lot from his readers by asking them to fill in the gaps.
  • Hemingway is renowned for his economical style. According to a legend about him, he was challenged to write a short story in just six words. He wrote the following: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." What makes a short story?

Based on many of his short stories (not displayed here) and novels, you might also focus on:

  • young people taking part in international conflicts
  • World War 1 experience
  • the making of an American soldier
  • the USA as a World Policeman
  • the policy of isolationism and expansion
  • patriotism

It would be a good idea to compare and contrast with all sorts of texts. (e.g. TV series and blogs)


If you want to work further with Hemingway's texts, it is a good idea to check online resources such as Shmoop, CliffsNotes and Sparknotes.

Last updated 05/24/2018
Written by: Eli M. Huseby

Learning content

Literature after 1900

What is core content and additional content?

Subject Material

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External resources

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