The Killers


This study guide will help you analyse the short story “The Killers” by Ernest Hemingway. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Killers” (1927)
Author: Ernest Hemingway  
Genre: Short story

Ernest Hemingway (b. 1899 as Ernest Miller Hemingway, d. 1961) was an American writer known for his novels, short stories, and for his work in journalism. Many of his works are considered American classics; in 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Hemingway is known for his minimalistic style of writing, which he called the Iceberg Theory. Inspired by Hemingway’s work as a journalist, this style of writing focuses on describing the surface elements of a story through simple language. Underlying themes are not explicitly discussed but conveyed through symbolism. The short story “The Killers” was first published in 1927 in Scribner’s Magazine.


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The title of the short story “The Killers” is straightforward, as it suggests that the story revolves around killers. Readers learn that the killers are a pair of men called Al and Max, who come to the town of Summit and wait for a Swedish man named Ole Andreson in Henry’s lunchroom. The two plan to kill Andreson on behalf of a friend. Several details in the story, such as Andreson being a former heavyweight prize-fighter, and the assumption that he double-crossed someone in Chicago, suggest that Al and Max are involved in the organised crime scene in Chicago.

However, the meaning of the title is also symbolic. This is subtly indicated by several details in the story. For example, although readers can assume that they are hit men who have probably killed before, Al and Max do not kill anyone in the story. Ole Andreson does not show up at Henry’s lunchroom, so Al and Max decide to let their hostages (George, Sam, and Nick Adams) go and leave the lunchroom without harming anyone.

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The Killers

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