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The Killers by Ernest Hemingway and its Historical Context

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The Killers written by Ernest Hemingway is a short story that firstly appeared in 1927. It should be noted that the text of the story gives an opportunity to admire the author’s language and get to know more about the period when The Killers was written. Not by chance Ernest Hemingway starts the story with introducing two criminals to the readers. Murders and crime are the key elements of the 1920’s; it was the mood of Chicago at that time. This means that the writing under consideration is not just one more interesting and captivating story; it is also a real historical document that helps to see the values of Chicago and people of Prohibition period.

American 1920’s can be described by means of two major characteristics. They were the following ones: Prohibition and gangsters. It was the period demonstrating the consequences of the eighteenth Amendment. It had prohibited all actions closely connected with alcohol. Thus, nobody had the right to transport, sale or manufacture alcohol drinks in America. The majority of people did not want this law and they did not respect it. That is why the 1920’s gave a birth to a huge market of illegal commodity. Although Prohibition is not the major theme of Hemingway’s The Killers, the story shows that it was really prohibited to sale alcohol and the killers asked to bring them some as it was still possible to get such drinks thanks to illegal markets. This situation can be found at the very beginning of the story when Max and Al are choosing dishes from the menu: “Got anything to drink?’ Al asked. “Silver beer, bevo, ginger-ale,’ George said. ‘I mean you got anything to drink?’ ‘Just those I said.’ ‘This is a hot town,’ said the other. ‘What do they call it?’ ‘Summit” (Hemingway 14).

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It is necessary to stress that the gangsters of the 1920’s have much resemblance with Max and Al presented by Ernest Hemingway in his story. They were brave, purposeful and determined to achieve their criminal goals. It was normal for them to kill people in public places. The same thing is described in The Killers, when Max and Al came to Henry’s lunchroom. They have a meal and then start behaving like cruel and resolute people. The killers know that they are in the public place and people can see and hear them. They are intended to do the thing they want – to murder a person. They do not hide their intentions and sound them as if there is nothing strange in their actions: “I’ll tell you, we are going to kill a Swede. Do you know a big Swede named Ole Anderson?” (Hemingway 16). This phrase uttered by Max tells a lot about the killers’ intentions, behavior and Chicago of the 1920’s described by Hemingway. The criminals were not controlled and could do practically everything they want. Thus at that time each city had its own gangster elements. It was Al Capone in Chicago. Perhaps, this person inspired the author to create such a splendid story about the killers, because the name of the character “Al” sounds like the short-cut from “Al Capone”. The latter was known as “Public Enemy Number One”. He was the one who was buying illegal alcohol during prohibition. He took it from Torrio and earned a lot of money. Al Capone frequently was killing people if they prevented him from reaching his aims.

To conclude, it is necessary to emphasize the fact that The Killers written by Ernest Hemingway is very interesting book to read because it tells a story about Chicago of the 1920’s and its people. The author shows the mood of the city and the impunity of such people as Al Capone. It turns out that Prohibition influenced people’s life greatly. Thus it encouraged the appearance of illegal markets and more crimes. A lot of innocent people suffered as gangsters did not hesitate to commit their crimes in the public. This situation is described by Ernest Hemingway when he introduces Al and Max to the reader. So, The Killers are worth reading due to its splendid style and historical context it presents to the audience. It gives an opportunity to learn more about Chicago’s life in the prohibition period.    

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