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The Killers

The Killers


by Ernest Hemingway

Analysis: What’s Up With the Title?

Since "The Killers" tells the story of two would-be hitmen, we’re not entirely surprised by the title. It’s worth taking a closer look, however, when we realize one key fact: the killers don’t actually kill anyone.

Oh. If they don’t kill any people, then what do they kill?

When you check out Symbols, Imagery, and Allegory, you’ll see that we talk about the clock as being particularly important. Time, then, is no trivial matter in this story, and while the killers stand around waiting for Ole, they’re pretty much just killing time.

But what else do they kill…How about Nick’s innocence? In Robert Penn Warren’s famous essay on the story, he argues that "The Killers" is really just about Nick encountering evil in the world for the first time. Since the evil in question = the killers, it’s fair to say that they’re responsible for killing a piece of Nick’s youthful innocence. There’s probably more where that came from, but we’ll leave the rest to you.

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