Nick Adams, the character who stands in for Ernest Hemingway in a series of short stories, encounters harsh reality in "The Battler." Likely, Hemingway wanted the story to serve as a cautionary tale for those who would try to fight the world, for according to the story the world will always win. Hemingway achieves his purpose in this story by presenting action without external narration or explanation, allowing the events in effect to present themselves and allowing the reader to discover the meaning of these events on his or her own. This process begins with the first lines and continues throughout the story:
Nick stood up. He was all right. He looked up the track at the lights of the caboose going out of sight around the curve. There was water on both sides of the track, then tamarack swamp (Hemingway 129).
In keeping with the title, the story has a contentious tone carried by Hemingway's succinct syntax and concrete semantics. The theme expresses a view of the mythic journey through life in which the young man learns about life and forms his character on that basis.
The opening lines of the story set the scene in an indirect way that creates suspense. The author does not explain the action directly but brings the reader into the action in the middle of things, after an important action and before the story proper begins so that the reader has to connect the events before the opening lines with those that follow. The opening lines intrigue the reader and force him or her to participate by trying to determine the meaning even as the author describes the setting in a few words. In these few lines, the author introduces the main character, implies that something has happened without saying what, implies a degree of violence and uncertainty, and sets the story in a rural area alongside railroad tracks. We are told that Nick is all right, but we do not now why the issue is even raised for another two paragraphs. In t...