This study guide will help you analyze the text “Up in Michigan” by Ernest Hemingway. We will also provide a summary of the story, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
Presentation of the text
Title: “Up in Michigan” (1923)
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Genre: Short story
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was a modernist author who developed important new writing techniques that we now associate with Modernism. The most famous of these techniques is the Iceberg Theory, in which the key elements of a story are kept 'below the surface', forcing the reader to interpret much of the plot. Hemingway's works won him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
"Up in Michigan" originally appeared in the anthology Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923), which was published privately and printed in just 300 copies. It later reappeared in the much more widely published The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (1938).
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The title of the short story, “Up in Michigan”, initially indicates the setting of the story, the US state of Michigan. Michigan lies at the northern end of the US, just south of the Canadian border.
The word ‘up’ can be interpreted as alluding to the remote and somewhat 'wild' area where the characters live, placing it in contrast to more 'civilised' areas further south. The title thus seems to indicate that the story will focus on describing life at the edges of civilization, and how people 'up there' might live according to different norms than the rest of society.
This contrast between wilderness and civilization also appears in the story itself, especially through the main characters - Jim comes from the wild north and practices fishing and hunting, while Liz seemingly spends all of her time in town. They clearly live in different worlds, which might help explain Liz's obsession with Jim, as a representative of something wild and adventurous. However, her expectations are finally twisted as Jim reveals his unexpected dark side and violently assaults her.