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English Literature

Character

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There is no physical description of any of the characters. There is very little direct description of their feelings either, because Hemingway prefers to let us read between the lines.

Nick

  • The story seems to be told from Nick's viewpoint. Although it is told in the third person - both characters are referred to as 'he' and 'she' - the story remains with Nick after Marjorie has left, so we get his reaction to the break-up, but not hers.
  • Nick has planned to break up with Marjorie, and has discussed it with Bill beforehand - Bill asks: "Did she go alright?" You could see Nick as being unfair, since he has planned this and still goes on the fishing trip with her.
  • Nick seems to be quite aggressive at times in the story: when responding to things Marjorie says, and picking arguments.
  • He does not have the courage to break up with her outright - he has to pick an argument first. It is Marjorie who asks the definitive question.
  • Earlier in the story, is Nick trying to break the idea to Marjorie gently when he comments that the fish will not "strike" - in other words, they will not commit, like him?
  • Hemingway only directly mentions what the characters are feeling once or twice. He uses the word 'afraid' to describe Nick's feelings when he is talking to Marjorie. What do you think he is afraid of?
  • After Marjorie has gone, Nick seems upset. He tells Bill the break-up went fine, but is described as "lying, his face on the blanket". The 'lying' is ambiguous [ambiguous: Something that could be interpreted in more than one way. ] - is it about the position of his body or the truth of his words?

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