Nobody Ever Dies Essay, Research Paper
“The Complete Short Stories of Earnest Hemingway” contains many kinds of stories, with themes ranging from the comic to the serious and the macabre, among which “Nobody Ever Dies” is my favorite one.
The story is about a young man named Enrique, who had been away at war for 15 months. His comrades-in-arms secretly sent him back to a house, without knowing it was being watched.
Enrique was all the time listening. Someone was trying the two doors. Keeping himself out of sight, Enrique carefully looked around the house. There was no one but a Negro walking along the sidewalk. When the dark came, the Negro was still there. Suddenly, a siren on the radio from the next house gave him a false alarm. Soon afterwards, two stones fell on the tiling floor of the porch one after the other. Enrique went downstairs to the back door.
The one outside gave the password correctly, and Enrique opened the door. It was his girlfriend Maria. She had waited until it was dark to come to send him food. Enrique shut the door again. They went up to the porch and looked out. The Negro was gone.
Maria learned from Enrique that many soldiers had died, including Vicente, her only brother and the flower of their party. She couldn’t accept it. Enrique finished his meal and talked about the lessons he had learned from the war and his attitude toward his companions’ sacrifice. But she said he talked like a book with a dry heart. Enrique was hurt and showed her the severe wound on his lower back. She cried. Enrique suggested their leaving the house immediately.
Just then, two real sirens came both ways up the street. Enrique ordered Maria to leave at once, but she insisted he should go first. Finally, they ran out of the back door and took two ways, diving into the weeds surrounding the lot and crawling.
Enrique was almost to the edge of the lot now and must make a dash across the road. But as he started to run, the searchlight caught him, which was from the police car that had come silently, without siren, and posted itself at one back corner of the lot. Enrique fell to the gun from the car.
To make matters worse, there was a car at the other corner and its searchlight was going over the weeds where Maria lay hidden. The Negro was busy helping to search for her at the moment. Maria earnestly prayed the dead soldiers to keep her from talking if she was taken.
Eventually, they caught her. By now, Maria was quite sure that every one was helping her. She sat in the car with an unusual confidence, her face shining.
The Negro would be well paid for his help. But seeing the girl’s face, he felt frightened…
I like this story very much. Getting myself totally involved in it, I felt personally on the scene. I could hear the sirens, see the searchlight, and sense the heartbeat of the protagonists. However, what impressed me most is its theme, title and ending.
In the story, there is a combination of two eternal themes: war and love. A lot of young men like Enrique joined the war for liberty. All of them were either killed or badly wounded. The living honored the dead, yet they must turn grief into strength. So what they thought was how to work to take their places, to advance wave upon wave. Where one died did not matter if he died for liberty. And it wouldn’t always be a failure. Such was the strongest belief of Enrique, of all the soldiers who had lived through the war, and of every one longing for liberty.
The love between Enrique and Maria is quite moving. It was intensified through the war. At first, Maria was sentimental. Not having witnessed the sacrifice of the soldiers as Enrique had, she could not understand his attitudes toward the dead, though she loved him deeply. But the moment she touched the huge sunken scar on Enrique’s back, she suddenly understood the worth of the soldiers’ death, as well as the cruelty of the war. Therefore, she showed an extraordinary bravery later on, which was the representation of their supreme love — the same belief, together with the mutual understanding and support in jeopardy. It’s also the climax of the story: the integration of war and love.
And the title of the story “Nobody Ever Dies” is rather meaningful. Though numberless soldiers died in the war, nobody ever died, for their spirit never failed to encourage the living. In the story, at the sight of Enrique’s death, Maria was fully aware what she should do. She cried for help from the dead, and indeed, it was the dead that smoothed away her fear of danger and gave her great confidence and courage. Just as Enrique said, “nobody ever dies for nothing”. If one dies for justice, he will more or less leave the living with something to follow. And what he has cost will certainly be repaid by the final victory. So the dead are the pioneers and guides of their successors. In this way, his death is not worthless.
Also, the ending of the story is very enlightening. It ends in a sharp comparison between Maria and the Negro spy. The girl would be faced with the enemy’s excruciation, but her face was shining proudly and her head held high; while the Negro would get a lot of money for his night work, but he was so frightened that even his voodoo beads could not help his fear. All this was brought on by their different beliefs. Maria overcame her fear and gathered strength with the help of the dead, while the Negro gave his soul away to the money at the cost of a just cause.
In a word, I greatly enjoy reading the short story “Nobody Ever Dies”, and especially appreciate its theme, title and ending, as well as the vivid plots. It really leaves the reader with endless aftertaste.