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In Our Time: Review Essay, Research Paper

In Our Time: Review

Half-way through reading Hemmingway’s collection In Our Time I was interrupted

by my roommate, George. He wanted to know how I liked the story. He seems to be

very impressed that I’m reading Hemmingway. I explained to him that it was, in

fact, not one story, but a collection of short stories. He asked if they had a

common theme or not, and I found it difficult to answer. “Yeas and no,” I said.

I then went on to explain that although one character, Nick, appeared

occasionally, the stories didn’t flow as one large story. “It’s sort of like a

painting,” I told him, “If you could pick out any one individual brush-stroke

and study it, it would be meaningless. But if you pull back and see all the

brush-strokes, you can view the painting in its entirety.” He thought this was

very wise and went away, contented that I was a literate genius.

Myself, I didn’t really know what to gather from the stories. I’ve never

honestly read any Hemmingway previously. I’ve started to read The Sun Also Rises

about ten times and gotten waylaid by Batman, Robert B. Parker, and the like

each time. I think I read The Old Man and the Sea ages ago in high school, but

it was so long ago that it has slipped completely from my memory. He is one of

those authors that I always connect with my father and his college years for

some reason, although I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve always wanted to read

Hemmingway, but I’ve always wanted to read all of Shakespeare, Homer, and Eliot,


The edition I’m reading has the short stories separated by “Chapters” which do

and don’t tell a story. The “Chapters” strongly remind me of Pink Floyd’s The

Wall. I was also surprised at how simple it is to read them. They are perfect

examples of how Poe defined the short story: quick, (sometimes) powerful, and

written to evoke one feeling. After reading The End of Something, for example, I

was struck by how easily Hemmingway made me sad. The ending to A Very Short

Story was pure torture. All the stories are simply constructed, no superfluous

words, no extra images to clutter the feeling. They seem to be written with

Strunk and White’s Elements of Style in mind. After not one of them was I

wanting for more. Each was a universe unto itself. Out of Season was difficult

because I wasn’t sure of how it made me feel, almost as if it was beyond me to

understand what was happening to the characters and therefore I wasn’t supposed

to have read it.

I enjoyed reading In Our Time, sitting on a float in a pool in the sun. The

whole time, though, I was worried about what sort of “response” I was having to

each story. I think it clouded my mind while I was reading and I must try to

avoid that. If I had simply picked the book from a shelf and read it on a summer

day, I think my responses would have been subtly different, although I’m sure I

don’t know in what way. I am never sure what kind of “response” a professor is

looking for in these “response” papers, or how formal they should be, but this

is obviously the first of many and I will learn from your response to it.

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