"The Battler" is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway, published in the 1925 New York edition of In Our Time, by Boni & Liveright. The story is the fifth in the collection to feature Nick Adams, Hemingway’s autobiographical alter ego.
“The Battler” begins with Nick Adams, the main character, being thrown off a train because he was caught attempting to stow away. Nick then stumbles into a forest, trying to find his way to the next town. Nick sees a fire in the darkness and makes his way over to it. He sees a man next to the fire and greets him. The man asks Nick where he got the black eye and Nick explains that he was punched off of a train. The man tells him that he should hit the man on the train with a rock the next time he passes to which Nick replied, “I’ll get him.” The man compliments Nick on his toughness to which Nick replies, “You got to be tough.” After this, Nick realizes that the man’s face is misshapen, with a smashed nose, permanently swollen lips, and one missing ear. The man then asks Nick if he has ever been crazy and says “I’m not quite right,” then, “I’m crazy.” Nick starts to feel uncomfortable after this and considers leaving, until the man reveals himself to be Ad Francis, a former boxing champion. Later, Bugs comes back to the camp with their dinner. While preparing dinner, Ad asks Nick for the knife and Bugs tells Nick to not hand it to him. Ad is greatly offended and becomes very aggressive saying, “You come in here where nobody asks you and eat a man’s food and when he asks to borrow a knife you get snotty.” He threatens to hit Nick, but Bugs knocks him out with a blackjack in order to sedate him. Nick asks how Ad became so crazy and Bugs explains that he took too many beatings in the ring, plus his wife, whom the media falsely claimed to be his sister, abandoned him. Shortly after, Ad became depressed and could no longer financially support himself. After this revelation, Nick leaves the camp and heads towards the next town.
- Oliver (1999), 21
- Tetlow (1992), 65
- Oliver, Charles. (1999). Ernest Hemingway A to Z: The Essential Reference to the Life and Work. New York: Checkmark Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8160-3467-3
- Tetlow, Wendolyn E. (1992). Hemingway's "In Our Time": Lyrical Dimensions. Cranbury NJ: Associated University Presses. ISBN 978-0-8387-5219-7
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