The Killers PDF / Summary

By Sara R.



  • One long scene and three short scenes
  • The focus of narration is objective
  • First scene:

    The mission of the gangsters is accomplished.

  • The gangsters eat with gloves
  • They keep their eyes on the mirror behind the bar
  • The gangster who has the shotgun at the window station his friend and George out front like a photographer arranging for a group picture
  • The technique of the story

  • The cleverness of composition
  • The subtlety with which the suspense is maintained in the first and second scene
  • Reader’s opinion about the first and second scene – Structure of the story with regard to the relations among incidents and with regard to the attitudes of the characters.

  • The story is exhausted in the first scene and it does not have a point, does not come to focus
  • The first scene is used to charge the second scene
  • The first reader feels that the Killers is a gangster’s story –a story of action which does not come off and, the second reader interprets it as Andreson’s story- approached indirectly. In this case, the readers transpose the question: what is the story? into the question: whose story is it? When he states this question, he confronts the fact that Hemingway has left the story focused on the boys at the lunchroom
  • “ I am going to get out of this town”, Nick said. “Yes”, said George. That is a good thing to do. I can’t stand to think about him waiting in the room and knowing he is going to get it. It is too damned awful. Well, said George, “you better not think about it”. The theme is about the discovery of evil- the Hamlet theme.
  • Nick had been gagged and bound by the gangsters. “ Nick had been bound and gagged by the gangsters and has been released by George. He had never had a towel in his mouth before. He was trying to swagger it off”. The first effect of being gagged was of excitement. The word ‘towel’ has a sensory advantage over the word ‘gag’- because it shows the unpleasant drying effect on the membranes of the mouth
  • Another pointer appears in the movies. "You ought to go to the movies more" " The movies are fine for a bright boy like you". On the one hand, this serves as a kind of indirect exposition because the reader knows the standard reason and procedore for gang killings but, on the other hand, this remarks that the unreal clichés of horror have a reality.
  • Unreal and theatrical quality reflected in the description of the gangsters - in an unreal code; it denies the personal elements of life.
  • The dialogue is: sleazy quality of mechanized gag and wisecrack -A kind of banter that overrides the situation
  • They are contemptuous and even bored. This code is shocking but more shocking is that Ole Andreson accepts the code too. Because he rejects all the responses which the boy would have consider normal such as: calling the police or leaving town
  • Mrs. Bell serves to give a bit of delayed exposition by gaining sympathy for Andreson who is to her an “awfully nice man”
  • Mrs. Bell represents the world of normality. She points his individuality
  • George and the cook represents two different levels of response to the situation
  • Hemingway attitude’s towards his material

    • Violent situations
    • The hard- drinking and sexually promiscuous world
    • The chaotic and brutal world of war
    • The dangerous and exciting world of the bull ring or the prize ring
    • The world of crime
    • Characters: tough men, experienced in the hard worlds they inhabit and insensitive –like Ole Andreson
    • Defeated men
    • Hemingway’s attitude is like Robert Louis Stevenson: Pulvis et umbra

    Stevenson’s opinion

    • The world in which this drama is played out is a violent and meaningless world
    • Its characters attempt to impose some form upon the disorder of their lives, the technique of the bullfighter or sportsman, the discipline of the soldier, the code of the gangster which has its own ethic
    • The typical Hemingway character is tough and insensitive- only for the fidelity of a code, to a discipline- sensitivity that allows characters to see their true plight
    • For Hemingway the disciplined man is aware of pathos or tragedy
    • For Hemingway the only way to hold on to honour, to individuality or the human order as against the brute chaos of the world, is to live by his code
    • The hero finds himself
    • Hemingway heroes are aristocrats because they practice a lonely virtue
    • The mastery of discipline, the process of the initiation, the discovery of evil and disorder- Nick’s story.
    • Hemingway character is simple, insensitive and tough

    Main characteristics of Hemingway:

    • Hemingway’s world: disordered and violent world
    • In Hemingway’s works we find: the bullfighter, the soldier, the revolutionist, the sportsman, and the gangster
    • The sensibility of Hemingway’s characters is in sharper contrast to the nature of his world. For Gerstrude Stein: “ Hemingway is the shyest, proudest and sweetest-smelling storyteller of my reading”- shyest meaning irony and understatement
    • The underlying attitude: pity is valid when a man is seasoned by experience and, it is only earned by a man who never demands it – A man who takes his chances.
    • His style is simple- even to the point of monotony. The characteristic sentence is simple, or compound, and if compound, there’s no implied subtlety in the co-ordination of the clauses. The paragraph structure is based on simple sequence. Unsophisticated characters and simple and fundamentals situations rendered in an uncomplicated style. A style which involves subordination and complicated shadings of emphasis. A style which tends toward complex sentences with many qualifying clauses and phrases that, at the same time implies an exercise of critical discrimination; the sifting of experience through the intellect which implies a distrust of the intellect in solving man’s basic problems.
    • Hemingway’s writing is a result of calculation and not a matter of spontaneity or being naïve. His style is a dramatic device because of its appropriateness to the effect he wants to give to the writer.