Themes and message

Loss of innocence

The loss of innocence theme is explored in connection with Nick Adams, but also in connection with the other characters.

The story often suggests that Nick Adams is an inexperienced young man – this means that he is also naïve about certain things in life. He represents traditional moral values – honesty, courage, consideration for other people. This is reflected, for example, in his willingness to warn Andreson about Al and Max; he later even suggests that he could go to the police (l. 237). It is also suggested, however, that he is too young to understand the fact that this might put him in danger, and too inexperienced to know that the authorities might be more inclined to help the gangsters (as they often bribed police officers or judges).

The loss of innocence theme is explored explicitly in connection with Nick Adams at the end of the story – while previously hopeful that he can make a difference by seeing Andreson, he is shocked by Andreson’s decision to wait for his own death. Nick’s loss of innocence, in this case, means that he was transformed by his encounter with unstoppable evil, and even more by Andreson’s passivity in the face of death. This is why he quickly decides to leave town:

‘I'm going to get out of this town,’ Nick said.
‘Yes,’ said George. ‘That's a good thing to do.’
‘I can't stand to think about him waiting in the room and knowing he's going to get it. It's too damned awful.’ (ll. 290-293)

The other characters in the story have ...

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