Study Guide

The Killers Men and Masculinity

By Ernest Hemingway

Men and Masculinity

"You’re a pretty bright boy, aren’t you?" (35)

Al and Max antagonize George with this taunt, a dig at his masculinity (because they call him a ‘boy’ and not a ‘man’).

"What are you looking at?" Max looked at George.

"Nothing."

"The hell you were. You were looking at me." (47-9)

In portraying stereotypical criminals, Max and Al end up embodying a number of "tough guy" clichés, as we see here.

"You talk too damn much," Al said. "The n***** and my bright boy are amused by themselves. I got them tied up like a couple of girl friends in the convent." (108)

Al infers inferiority on the part of Sam and George by insulting their masculinity.

"That was nice, bright boy," Max said. "You’re a regular little gentleman."

"He knew I’d blow his head off," Al said from the kitchen.

"No," said Max. "It ain’t that. Bright boy is nice. He’s a nice boy. I like him." (120-2)

Al seems more intent on expressing his masculinity in traditional ‘tough guy’ ways than Max.

"Bright boy can do everything," Max said. "He can cook and everything. You’d make some girl a nice wife, bright boy." (125)

Again, basically every insult in this story has to do with a lack of traditional masculinity.

"I’ll go see him," Nick said to George. "Where does he live?"

The cook turned away.

"Little boys always know what they want to do," he said. (159-61)

Sam raises an interesting issue: how do notions of masculinity change with age? This is a particularly important question with regards to Nick who, as a young man, is coming into adulthood during the course of "The Killers."

Nick opened the door and went into the room. Ole Andreson was lying on the bed with all his clothes on. He had been a heavyweight prizefighter and he was too long for the bed. He lay with his head on two pillows. He did not look at Nick. (173)

As a former heavyweight prizefighter, Ole should be the epitome of masculinity. Since Ole is passive and defeated, this is another case of things not being what seem.

Nick looked at the big man lying on the bed. (184)

It would seem that Nick gets the irony here.

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