Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ernest Hemingway - The Capital of the World

Another short story that I think is brilliant.  Like the Jack London story I posted a week ago, this story is precise and grim.  Very different, superficially, but I get a similar vibe from both.

"The Capital of the World"
by Ernest Hemingway

Some commentary, from

What do you think?  Is Paco an idiot who died senselessly?  Or is he a hero in the sense that he never lost his idealism?

The latter possibility is described by GradeSaver:
There is only one exception to the general gloom at the Luarca, and that is Paco. He is the only character described as having any joy or wonder. Generally, this is referred to as a sense of the “romantic.” Paco is the only one with beliefs, ideals, and illusions, some of which he absorbs from those around him. As he is speaking to the two other waiters in the dining room, Paco thinks to himself, “He himself would like to be a good catholic, a revolutionary, and have a steady job like this, while, at the same time, being a bullfighter.” He adopts the beliefs and ideals of the Anarcho-Syndicalist, the priests, the middle-aged waiter, and the bullfighters who surround him.

In one sense, Paco’s malleability is one of his weaknesses, as is his idealism. It can be argued that Paco is merely a gullible, easily awed country boy who had overly-grand dreams for himself and met his end through overconfidence. On the other hand, there is a real sense of sympathy and even nostalgia in Hemingway’s description of Paco and his short existence. Paco’s dreams are not the dreams of a fool, merely the dreams of a youth. In the second to last paragraph of the story, Hemingway writes, Paco “died, as the Spanish phrase has it, full of illusions. He had not had time in his life to lose any of them, nor even, at the end, to complete an act of contrition.” Perhaps it is better for Paco, Hemingway implies, that he perished attempting to fulfill his dream of becoming a bullfighter than rotting away as a second-rate coward or has-been in a place like the Luarca. Given the reader’s knowledge of the type of deep depression and despair that overtook Hemingway at certain points in his life, this reading of the story must receive serious consideration.