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The Killers

The Killers

by Ernest Hemingway

Innocence Theme

The standard take on "The Killers" is that it is a typical "loss of innocence" story. Nick Adams, a main character and frequent protagonist in Hemingway’s short stories, experiences evil in the world and is a different person at the close than he was at the start. In this tale, it is experience that jades and hardens, as evidenced by the older characters who are unfazed even by an attempted mob murder. Innocence, then, has more to do with naïveté than anything else.

Questions About Innocence

  1. Is Nick’s loss of innocence an inevitable event that is merely hastened by the incident with the killers, or is he corrupted in a somehow atypical, unnecessary way by these events?
  2. If we agree with the classic interpretation of "The Killers" as a loss of innocence story, which scene takes Nick’s innocence away – the first one with Max and Al, or the second one with Ole?
  3. What does Nick’s conversation with Mrs. Bell contribute to his loss of innocence?
  4. Why are Sam and George so unaffected by the evening’s events? Actually, ARE they affected by the evening’s events?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Despite popular opinion, "The Killers" is not about the loss of innocence. Nick Adams is already jaded when the story begins.

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