Themes and message

“Mr. and Mrs. Elliot” by Ernest Hemingway explores two important themes: failed marriage and emasculation. Both these themes show that people sometimes create big expectations without a basis and are often prone to see them fail.

Failed marriage

This theme shows that one’s expectations regarding marriage are not necessarily met once the couple decides to spend their lives together. Mr. Elliot believed that remaining a virgin until marriage was the best choice he could make and also a proper basis for his future relationship:

He was twenty-five years old and had never gone to bed with a woman until he married Mrs. Elliot. He wanted to keep himself pure so that he could bring to his wife the same purity of mind and body that he expected of her. He called it to himself living straight. (ll. 19-23)

Hubert and Cornelia’s decision to get married was taken without much thought and proved to be the start of the couple’s unhappiness:

At first Hubert had no idea of marrying Cornelia. He had never thought of her that way. She had been such a good friend of his (…) He could never remember just when it was decided that they were to be married. But they were married. (ll. 44-50)



The term “emasculation” means depriving a man of his traditional role and his virility. In this case, emasculation takes place in different ways. On the one hand, Mr. Elliot feels emasculated before he even meets Cornelia, after being rejected numerous times by various girls who saw his virginity as a flaw. Secondly, Mr. Elliot feels emasculated because he cannot get his wife pregnant.


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