This paper researches the theme and narrative elements in "A Very Short Story" by Ernest Hemingway. The aim is to analyze the story, to describe the theme of it, and to identify the literary elements that contribute to the theme.
Theme and Narrative Elements in the Short Story
Ernest Hemingway is the world-known writer whose stories are full of literary elements. The reader finds out all the data about plot, point of view, tone, setting, and atmosphere in the front lines of his narratives. One of such stories is "A Very Short Story".
Griffith affirms that “the plot of a fictional work is a pattern of carefully selected, casually related events that contains conflict” (1990, p. 42). "A Very Short Story" has a short length, but it includes a plenty of actions and conflicts. According to the textbook, "The plot tells you what happens in a story, but the theme tells you what the story is about" (Chapter 7). There are two main themes of the story: a love affair, and a dramatic impact of the war on people's fates.
The plot divides the narrative into five parts: exposition (takes place at the beginning); rising action; climax; falling action; and denouement.
The constant development is the fact of an unnamed amour between a military man and a nurse. Later, the love affair deviates from being unnamed. “He and Luz could hear them below on the balcony” (Hemingway, 1987, p.107). Then the development of events goes on when Luz is sending the letters to the soldier while he is at the battlefront. However, unexpectedly she stops. After the fighting ends, “they agreed he should go home to get a job so they “might” be married” (Hemingway, 1987, p.107). The climax comes up from the moment when everything changes in their relationship: their ways parts. They still have a probability to be together, but, nevertheless, “… the major of the battalion made love to Luz, and she had never known Italians before, and finally wrote to the States that theirs had only been a boy and girl affair” (Hemingway, 1987, p.107). It is the moment where destruction of their passionate love starts. Luz and he will have no opportunity to keep each other in the arms. She makes such a decision in the hope that the major of the battalion will marry her in the spring.
The falling of events is perfectly seen in the last section. “The major did not marry her in the spring, or any other time. Luz never got an answer to the letter to Chicago about it. A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park” (Hemingway, 1987, p.108). It looks like a direct completion, but it is not. The denouement is following: the main characters are decayed; the war has affected their lives deeply and irreversibly.
There are external and internal conflicts in the story. The heroes, the soldier and Luz, are always struggling in their heads. For example, Luz writes passionate letters to the soldier, but suddenly stops writing. It is a radical change in her behavior and her feelings. Such turnabout would never happen if she did not fight with her emotions and senses. The same is with him: he seems to love her forever, but eventually, “he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park” (Hemingway, 1987, p.108). The conflict reveals the fact that their love affair was not serious. The war changes them and their love; the war changes everything.
There are two major characters in the story: the protagonist is "he". The soldier is a complete character, but meanwhile, he has certain standard acts. He is a stereotype of a usual military man without any rank. He seems to have values and to be faithful at the wartime. Eventually, it is clear that he behaves resembling a bohemian man, and Luz does not differ from him. She has values at the beginning but loses them at the end.
The author chose the wartime for the story because the war is a struggle: a struggle not only between the countries, but also in the minds of characters. In the other time, everything might be different and probably better. Hence, it appears that the theme of the story, where actions take place in the peacetime, would differ from the one, where actions take place during the war.
The mood of the narrative is very depressive and sad. The atmosphere of disintegration is felt in every word. Therefore, the theme of the love affair is hopeless from the beginning.
The dramatic point of view composes the narrative. The author does not penetrate into the minds of the heroes. He lets the readers observe them as in the real existence. Hemingway leaves the explanation of the deeds performed by the personages to the readers. The short length of the story is the motive to such style.
The analysis of "A Very Short Story" by Ernest Hemingway leads to the conclusion that all the above-mentioned narrative elements contribute to the larger narrative theme. The main theme is the love affair, but it is not simple and, as one can see, wider: it is love during the war; it is a conflicting attitude to the serious relations and an unstable love. The second important theme of the narrative is total disruption - the war has disrupted lives of many families and couples. It is worth underlying that the mood, the point of view, places and characters - everything helps to enrich the plot and the theme of the short story.