Ranking Hemingway Short Stories

I mentioned in a post from the other day that I love Ernest Hemingway. And it’s true. He is my favorite of the Lost Generation of writers, and I’m so drawn to his works, I can’t help but love them.

I took a class my junior year of high school that changed my life. It was an English class, but really, we studied life in that class through the lens of literature. The man that taught the class was hands down the best teacher I’ve ever had as well, and I got to take an independent study with him my senior year, which was also one of the best learning experiences I’ve had. It was in these classes that I started to love Hemingway. My junior year, he had us read a collection of about 30 of Hemingway’s short stories. In my senior year, I read The Sun Also Rises during my independent study. I was so taken by his way with words, his simplicity and his style and just the rawness of everything he writes. Hemingway’s characters are real people. It feels like I know them, or that they at least know me, and understand some of these same feelings that I’ve felt in my life.

hemingway

I haven’t had a chance to read too many of Hemingway’s novels since I discovered him, although I have been to his house before and *almost* convinced my mom to let me go to Cuba this summer so I could do journalism and pretend to be him. I’ve also read most of his short stories, and I figured today I would rank them, based on the ones that were my favorites.

  • The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
    • My favorite Hemingway short story ever. It follows the coward Francis Macomber’s journey on an African safari. I love the dynamic between Francis, his wife, and their guide on the trip, and seeing how dysfunctional the trio’s relationship is. This one also has an unexpected ending that I loved.
  • The End of Something
    • A shorter short story that’s part of the Nick Adams series. I love this one just for how poignant it is: it really hits on what I mentioned about the characters feeling and understanding the same feelings we feel every day in real life. This is probably my favorite installment in the Nick Adams series.
  • The Capital of the World
    • This is a great story because of the main character, Paco. He’s a bit innocent and starry-eyed when it comes to his views of the world, but as a reader, I think you end up really empathizing with him because of it. The sad ending to this story makes it even more powerful.
  • Up in Michigan
    • This is actually a hard story to read and a weird one to say that I like, considering the content of it. I think my liking of it is mostly due to an argument I got into with my junior year English teacher over it. There’s a lot of ways that you can look at what happens to Liz in this story, and a lot of emotions that go along with it, which is what I think makes it so powerful.
  • A Very Short Story
    • Everyone should read this story, just because it’s only 2 pages. It’s also simple, sweet, and sad though. This story is supposedly the basis for A Farewell to Arms though, which is what inspired me to add that novel to my summer reading list
  • Indian Camp
    • I wouldn’t say this is one of Hemingway’s best short stories ever, but it’s a tale from Nick Adams’ younger days, and I think it’s a great introduction to his saga.
  • Hills Like White Elephants
    • I love this story for the innuendo, but hate it because of the lack of a strong female character. However, I’m putting it on this list because it’s another great thought-provoking story and I also reenacted it with my cat one time for a school project, which was incredibly fun.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Elliot
    • I love this story. It’s a great look into a relationship (a failing one at that) that’s a little more complex than some of Hemingway’s other short stories, but more easily digestible than reading some of his full-length novels about the same topic. It’s interesting to see the dynamic between the two title characters and how they make their relationship work, despite the fact that it doesn’t really work.
  • Cat in the Rain
    • Going back to the strong female character thing, one reason I really like this story is just because of how aware the main female protagonist is. She wants to be more independent, and it’s nice to see that in this story
  • A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
    • I like this story for it’s simplicity and it’s musings about life and loneliness. I think it’s a classic example of what a Hemingway story is.
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro
    • This is a pretty decent Hemingway story, but all the sidetracks and random musings of the main character can get a bit distracting, which is why I ranked it lower on this list.
  • Soldier’s Home
    • This is a sad story, but a great snippet of the life of a soldier after WW1. If you read a lot of historical fiction, I think this one would be right up your alley.
  • Big Two-Hearted River (1 and 2)
    • This is a long story, and it’s mostly about fishing. I actually don’t like it all that much, but it’s very metaphoric, and if you can get through all that, it’s a pretty thought-provoking couple of stories.

If you’ve never read Hemingway before, I think his short stories are a good introduction to his style of writing and the way he writes his characters. I highly recommend tracking down a collection of his stories and checking a few of them out if you’re up for reading something new soon.

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2 thoughts on “Ranking Hemingway Short Stories

  1. I like “old man at the bridge”, which I have copied into my last blog post “talking about bridges”, with my thoughts on history, war, literature and Hemingway…

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    • I have read that one, and I almost included it in this list, but didn’t for some reason! I may have to go reread it on your blog now that I’m thinking about it. It’s a great story.

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