Ernest Hemingway is widely considered one of the greatest American writers of all time. His 20th-century work has been celebrated for its readable prose, vivid characters, and deep themes that look closely at the human condition.
Hemingway is a classic writer studied across the world in schools, and as a result, there are many short stories that are set as texts for students to study.
But what are some of the best Ernest Hemingway short stories for your students? If you’re wondering about this, then you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the 8 best short stories by Hemingway that you can incorporate into your lessons today!
We’ve also included some additional information about Hemingway and his style for you to keep in mind.
About Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1899. Growing up at the turn of the century, he eventually found himself as a young man serving in World War I.
In the wake of the war, he became a writer and worked as a journalist. After spending time with some of the most prolific writers of the 20th century—Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, he published a novel called The Sun Also Rises, which was seen as a major literary success.
In the decades following the release of his first novel, he became a household name, writing many novels and short stories.
Some of his most famous works include The Old Man And The Sea, A Farewell To Arms, For Who, The Bell Tolls, A Moveable Feast, and a huge list of short stories.
Hemingway’s style is often characterized as a kind of writing that blends together short, snappy, journalistic prose, with modernist depth that creates layers of symbolism and rich characterization.
Today, Hemingway is considered one of the most influential writers in literary history, with many modern writers citing him as their inspiration. It is the accessibility of his work that often leads it to be discussed and studied in classrooms around the world.
The 8 Best Hemingway Short Stories To Study
1. The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber
This story tells the tale of a wealthy American couple on a hunting safari in Africa, and the unexpected turn their trip takes when the husband, Francis, confronts his fear of big game.
This story is a powerful exploration of masculinity, courage, and betrayal, and it is often cited as one of Hemingway’s greatest works.
2. Hills Like White Elephants
In this story, a couple sits at a train station in Spain, discussing a potential abortion. The story’s sparse dialogue and ambiguous ending have made it a subject of much literary analysis and interpretation, and it is a classic example of Hemingway’s iceberg theory of writing.
It’s also a great example of how symbolism can be used, and a great opportunity to teach students about this concept within literature.
3. A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
Set in a café late at night, this story explores the themes of aging, loneliness, and the search for meaning in life. Hemingway’s spare prose and careful attention to detail make this story a powerful meditation on the human condition.
This is a great choice if you’re looking for something that focuses on a singular character and internal dialogue.
4. The Killers
This exciting story sees two hitmen who have come to a small town diner to wait for their next target, and the story follows the interactions between the hitmen and the diner’s customers and staff.
This story is notable for its gritty realism and its depiction of violence and corruption, making it a great choice if you’re looking for something that will enthrall your students.
5. Big Two-Hearted River
This story follows a man named Nick Adams as he goes on a solo fishing trip in northern Michigan, following his return from World War I.
The story’s vivid descriptions of nature and its depiction of Nick’s struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder make it a powerful exploration of the human psyche.
This can also be a great choice if you’re looking for something that links with experiences of World War 1; an integral part of Hemingway’s life story.
6. Indian Camp
In this story, a young boy accompanies his father, a doctor, to an Indian reservation to perform a cesarean section on a woman in labor.
The story explores themes of birth, death, and the harsh realities of life, and it is notable for its spare prose and its unsentimental portrayal of violence and suffering. If you want a good example of the conservative nature of Hemingway’s prose, look no further.
7. The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Next up, we have what is possibly the most iconic short story Hemingway ever wrote. This story follows the character of Harry, a writer who is dying from an infected wound on a safari in Africa.
As he waits for rescue, Harry reflects on his life and his regrets, and the story is a powerful meditation on the difficulties of existence, and the importance of living each day as if it is your last.
It is another example of clinical prose and imagery that helps to enforce the overall moral/message of the story.
8. A Day’s Wait
If you want a story that works as a great accompaniment to The Snows Of Kilimanjaro, then you should check out A Day’s Wait.
This story tells the tale of a young boy who mistakenly believes he is dying of a fever and the way his father tries to comfort and reassure him.
The story is notable for its exploration of the themes of fear and mortality, and for its depiction of the relationship between father and son.
Key Features Of Hemingway’s Writing Style
Hemingway’s writing style is characterized by its spare, economical prose, its attention to detail, and its focus on the inner lives of his characters.
His stories are often set in exotic locations, and they explore themes of love, death, war, and the search for meaning in life. All of this is a result of a colorful and storied life with a lot of travel.
In many ways, you can consider Hemingway a journalist in the way he creates stories from practical, first-hand experience.
This has caused Hemingway’s writing style to be distinct and notable for its use of dialogue, which is often spare and elliptical, and for its use of the iceberg theory, which suggests that a writer should only show the tip of the iceberg of a character’s thoughts and emotions, leaving the reader to infer the rest.
Another key feature of Hemingway’s writing style is his use of repetition and parallelism. He often repeats key phrases or sentences throughout a story, creating a sense of rhythm and symmetry that reinforces the story’s themes and motifs.
His stories are also notable for their use of symbolism, with objects and events often standing in for deeper themes and ideas.
This use of symbolism is something he shares with his contemporaries – for example, F. Scott Fitzgerald – who use symbolism as a way of defining characters and central themes within a story.
Although Hemingway was great friends with modernist writers like James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, it is difficult to classify him as a writer who fits within this movement. Hemingway created a completely new style, one that has persisted and inspired countless writers worldwide.
In short, Ernest Hemingway is one of the most important writers of the 20th century. His short stories are a fantastic starting point for students of literature, one that can inspire them to move on to other authors with more complex writing styles.
The 8 short stories we have selected for our list are all perfect places to start, and each of them is accessible for students around the high-school level of reading and writing.
We hope that this guide has helped you to choose the best short story to start with and that you’re now more confident about how to teach Ernest Hemingway. If you have any questions, keep reading for our short FAQ section.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hemingway is considered an important writer for his contributions to the modernist movement in literature, as well as his sparse, economical writing style and his vivid character profiles.
His stories often explore important themes, and his experiences of some of the worst that the 20th century had to offer have made his works a time capsule for those who want to know more about the time period.
The iceberg theory is the idea that a character’s thoughts and emotions should be inferred rather than explicitly stated. This is a common theory and many writers choose to use this to make their work more complex and interesting.
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