Date of Award
Master of Arts in English
This study is limited in scope to an analysis of the twelve Nick Adams stories. They are viewed as a microcosmic unit of Hemingway's short fiction and represent the cohesive portrayal of one character's development through the formative years of youth and young manhood. The similarity of the background and environment of Nick Adams to that of Ernest Hemingway has raised the issue of autobiography; psychologyoriented critics have suggested the theme of castration. If Hemingway's fiction is autobiographical, a close study of the Nick Adams stories should lead to a better understanding of Hemingway and his literary motivations.
The subject matter of the Nick Adams stories is concentrated, either directly or indirectly, on inter-familial conflicts . Nick' s interactions are largely with father -figures or substitute fatherfigures; mother-figures, with a few important exceptions, are notably absent. The method adopted for this study is to examine carefully Nick's reactions to the significant characters with whom he interacts and to interpret the meaning for him of t hese experiences in psychological terms. This approach requires both a reatTangement of the Nick Adams stories into chronological order, and a separate study of the maturational development of children in the literature of psychoanalysis. A comparison of Nick Adams' conflicts with the emotional conflicts which a normal child must surmount in passing through the various stages of mental development reveals Nick' s apparent fixation at the Oedipal stage of development and its accompanying fear of castration.
The major findings which emerge from a careful analysis and psychological interpretation of these stories confirms the suggestions of psychology-oriented critics that a major theme in the work of Hemingway is a symbolic fear of castration. The significance of this theme is demonstrated by the intellectual and emotional confusion it creates for Nick. The subject of Nick's fear is also the object of his deep affection because of the paternal care and the years of companionship he shared hunting and fishing with his father.
The conclusion of this study corroborates the hypothesis that Hemingway's Nick Adams is the victim of psychic impotence created by a symbolic fear of castration. In these stories Nick's nostalgic return to a past filled with ambiguities, confusion, alienation and death is evidence of his feelings of ambivalence and immobilization over his unsuccessful attempts to resolve his conflict.
Arthur, Harold Macgregor, "Hemingway's Nick Adams Stories: A Psychological Interpretation" (1968). Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 1429.