The End of Something

the end of somethingThis story by Ernest Hemingway is about change. The lumber town of Hortons Bay dies and falls into ruin when there are no more trees to cut down. But this results in a new beginning as “second growth” forest establishes itself. Nick Adams breaks up with his girlfriend Marjorie because “it isn’t fun anymore”. Will Nick’s new beginning be with another girl, or is his decision to break up because of something else?

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Pre-Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

There is also a word that is in our Pre-Intermediate word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. In the row boat Nick and Marjorie go across the bay towards the point, and after Marjorie takes the boat Nick must walk around the point to get home. Here the word point has a similar meaning to .

General Comments on the Story

In our introduction to the story we asked a question: Will Nick’s new beginning be with another girl, or will it be something else? The answer is given in part of Hemingway’s next Nick Adams story, The Three-Day Blow. Nick and his friend Bill are drinking heavily one night soon after the break-up. Among many other things, they talk about Nick and Marjorie. To complete the picture, we have included that discussion as an extra section at the end of our Simplified Stories and included the full text of The Three-Day Blow above.

It would seem that Bill played a big part in Nick’s decision to end the relationship. In the The Three-Day Blow, he gives Nick two reasons why he thinks that this was a good idea:

  • One is that Marjorie is from a different race or social class to Nick:

    If you’d have married her you would have had to marry the whole family. Remember her mother and that guy she married. Imagine having them around the house all the time and going to Sunday dinners at their house,and having them over to dinner and her telling Marge all the time what to do and how to act.

    You came out of it damned well. Now she can marry somebody of her own sort and settle down and be happy. You can’t mix oil and water and you can’t mix that sort of thing any more than if I’d marry Ida that works for Strattons.

    Although Nick was the son of a doctor, there is no suggestion in these or any other Nick Adams stories that he is class conscious. Also, we know from other stories that Nick associated very freely with Native American children when he was younger. We don’t know a lot about Bill’s background, but more than likely these are a reflection of Bill’s feelings and not Nick’s. This is especially so as we are told that Nick sat quietly and said nothing as Bill made these comments.

  • A second and more telling reason was that Bill thought that marrying would change Nick in some way.

    Once a man’s married he’s absolutely bitched. He hasn’t got anything more. Nothing. Not a damn thing. He’s done for. You’ve seen the guys that get married. You can tell them. They get this sort of fat married look. They’re done for.

    Bill is probably thinking only of himself when he says this. He is afraid of what his life would be like if he did not have Nick to hang and go fishing out with. Hemingway hints at this in On Writing, a story fragment which the editor apparently cut from the end of another Nick Adams story, Big Two-Hearted River. By that time Nick had married another woman (Helen). Hemingway writes:

    When he (Nick) married he lost Bill, Odgar, the Ghee, all the old gang. Was it because they were virgins? The Ghee certainly was not. No, he lost them because he admitted by marrying that something was more important than the fishing.

    He had built it all up. Bill had never fished before they met. Everyplace they had been together. The Black, the Sturgeon, the Pine Barrens, the Upper Minnie, all the little streams. Most about fishing he and Bill had discovered together. They worked on the farm and fished and took long trips in the woods from June to October. Bill always quit his job every spring. So did he.

    Bill forgave him the fishing he had done before they met. It was like a girl about other girls, if they were before they did not matter. But after was different.

    That was why he lost them, he guessed. They were all married to fishing. He’d been married to it before he married. Really married to it. It wasn’t any joke. So he lost them all.

The irony of it all is that Marjorie loved fishing and is probably one of the few women who would not have wanted Nick to cut down on it if they had stayed together and got married.

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bait(n: bait pl baits) Something (such as a piece of food) that is used to attract fish or animals so they can be caught. We always use live bait such as worms when we fish. 6000

bay(n: bay pl bays) A large area of water that is part of an ocean or lake and partly surrounded by land. They went fishing in the bay. 4000

bucket(n: bucket pl buckets) An open container with a handle that is used especially to hold and carry water and other liquids; a pail. 3000

engaged(adj: engaged) Used to describe two people who have promised that they will marry each other at some future time. 2000

fin(n: fin pl fins) 1. A thin flat part that sticks out from the body of a fish and is used in moving or guiding the fish through water. 2. A part on a machine that is shaped like a fish's fin. The tail fin of an airplane. 4000

hook(n: hook pl hooks) 1. A small piece of metal shaped like a J fixed at the end of a fishing-line used for catching fish etc.; a fish-hook. 2. A curved device used for catching or holding things, especially one attached to a surface for hanging things on. Hang your jacket on that hook behind the door. 2000

log(n: log pl logs) 1. A thick piece of unshaped wood. The trees were cut into logs and taken to the sawmill. Throw another log on the fire. 2. An official record of the journey of a ship or airplane; a logbook. 2000

lumber(n: lumber, noncount) Wood that has been sawed and cut for building things. 3000
(n: lumberyard pl lumberyards) A place where lumber is stored and sold. 6000

mill(n: mill pl mills) 1. A building with a machine that grinds grain (seeds such as wheat, rice, etc) into flour. 2. A building in which certain kinds of products are made; factory. A paper/cotton/wool/textile/lumber/steel mill. 2000

oar(n: oar pl oars) A long pole that is flat and wide at one end and is used for rowing and steering a boat. 6000
They are usually used in pairs, with one on each side of the boat.

reel(n: reel pl reels) 1. A device shaped like a cylinder that a string, cord, etc., is wrapped around. A garden hose reel; A cotton reel. 2. A device that is attached to the handle of a fishing pole and used to wrap and release the line. He bought a new fishing rod and reel. 4000

rod(n: rod pl rods) 1. A straight, thin stick or bar. A curtain rod. 2. A pole with a line and usually a reel that is used in fishing. A fishing rod. 4000

(n: row pl rows) A straight line of people or things that are next to each other.
(v: row, rows, rowed, rowing) To move a boat through water using poles that are flat and wide at one end [oars]. 2000

row rowing

ruin(n: ruin pl ruins) The remaining pieces of something that has been destroyed. The ruins of the old city.
(n: ruin, noncount) 1. Something that badly damages someone physically, morally, economically, or socially. Drink was his ruin. 2. Financial disaster; complete loss of money. The company is facing ruin. 3000

saw(n: saw pl saws) A tool that has a blade with sharp teeth and that is used to cut through wood, metal, and other hard material. He used a saw to cut down the tree. 4000
(n: sawdust, noncount) A dust of tiny pieces of wood, made by sawing. 6000
(n: sawmill, sawmills) A place in which trees are cut into pieces using a large saw. 12000

trout(n: trout, noncount) A common fish that lives in rivers and lakes and is often used as food. (ปลาจำพวกหนึ่งมีลักษณะคล้ายปลาแซลมอน) 6000

wise(adj: wise, wiser, wisest) Having gained a lot of knowledge from books or experience or both and able to use it well. (ฉลาด)
(n: wisdom; noncount) 1. The knowledge gained from books or experience. 2. The quality or state of being wise. (ปัญญา; สติปัญญา) 2000

headland(n: headland pl headlands) A narrow area of land that sticks out into a sea, lake, etc; also called a point or promontory. 9000

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