The End of Something is dominated by a sombre elegiac [elegiac: Sad and sombre in tone. An elegy is a mournful poem or song. ] tone and deals with the potential end of a relationship.
The title is the first clue to one of the themes of the story: The End of Something. How many endings are there in the story? Are the earlier 'endings' enough to prevent the break-up of the relationship being completely predictable because of the title?
- The closure of the mill is the first ending in the story. Everything goes when the mill closes: "everything that had made the mill a mill and Hortons Bay a town". This creates a sense of loss and negative associations with the idea of change in the first paragraph of the novel.
- The end of the town and lack of people is emphasised by listing all the different buildings that now lie 'deserted' by the shore.
- There are hints that the fishing trips may be coming to an end, because the fish are not 'striking', or taking the bait. This may be a symbol of Nick and Marjorie's relationship, which is perhaps based around trips like these.
- Most of the story is spent building up to the break-up. Hemingway builds tension with Nick's terse [terse: Brief and to the point. ] answers, or by having him not answer at all. The earlier endings also create an expectation of loss. Nick picks a fight, and the large section of direct speech gives a sense of opposition and contrast between the two.
- The break-up itself is relatively understated. Nick simply says 'no' to Marjorie's question. Do you think this makes it more or less intense?
- The only time Nick calls Marjorie by her nickname, 'Marge', is when the relationship is almost at an end. Hemingway uses it to show the affection that once existed, which we haven't seen earlier in the story. Seeing it here makes the break-up more upsetting than if all we saw was the fall-out.
- The last section shows Nick, who planned and initiated the break-up, being the one who takes it badly (we are not shown Marjorie's reaction). Does his emotional response make the sense of loss greater? Another way of reading this ending is that Nick is upset because there is a loss of innocence - because he has hurt Marjorie, he is forced to see himself in a different light.