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The Killers

The Killers


by Ernest Hemingway

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Two guys walk into a bar…

OK, so it’s not a bar so much as a lunchroom, but you get the point. Because of the title of the story, there’s a fair bit of conflict implied (we sense that these creepy men in overcoats and wearing gloves are in all likelihood the killers in question), but for main character Nick Adams, this is still unknown.


The two guys act like jerks.

OK, so this isn’t the world’s most outrageous conflict. And it doesn’t come in any one instance; it sort of gradually builds as Max and Al become more and more antagonistic. Look at how they harass George about the menu and taunt him with the "bright boy" nickname. Sounds like conflict to us.


The two guys make some unreasonable demands.

It’s clear that something is up once Al and Max tie up Nick and Sam in the kitchen. This is no longer about some unfriendly strangers; there’s something seriously sinister (and illegal) going down.


The killers reveal that they’re going to kill Ole Andreson.

Well! Impending murder sounds like a great climax. Also, we’ve been building towards this moment since the story began. We got hints as to the men’s motives (the gloves, the overcoats) as well as an indication of their malevolence (they generally acted like antagonists). So this is the climactic moment we’ve all been waiting for.


Everyone waits for seven o’clock to roll around.

This is some nail-biting action. When the door to the lunchroom opens, we have to worry that there’s going to be shooting. When Ole doesn’t show up, we have to worry that the killers will kill the three spectators.


Ole Andreson

No, that title wasn’t a typo; Ole Andreson is "denouement" personified. There’s no excitement here, no fireworks – it’s clear from the moment we see the guy "lying on the bed with all his clothes on" that the big action of the story has passed.


"I’m going to get out of this town."

The conclusion to "The Killers" definitely belongs to Nick Adams. We see that the series of events which just transpired have had a HUGE effect on him. Exactly what he’s concluded is, as usual, subject to debate: the world is evil? Death is inevitable? He won’t accept his own death?

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