A Fall From Grace in “Up In Michigan”

“Up In Michigan” is Hemingway’s first published short story, originally featured in Three Short Stories and Ten Poems published in 1923. The work was written while Hemingway was in Paris.

“Up In Michigan” is a shocking and disturbing tale about a young girl, Liz Coates, who is infatuated with a blacksmith named Jim Gilmore. One day, Jim returns home from a deer-hunting trip. He gets drunk and rapes Liz in a nearby barn. He then falls asleep and Liz tenderly covers him with a jacket and walks home. The story takes place in Horton Bay, Michigan (northern Michigan) where Hemingway often spent his summers growing up. The subject matter forces us to confront the loss of innocence: what will Jim do in the morning? How will he and Liz interact now that he has crossed a bridge from which he can never return again? The title of “up” in Michigan has several implications, not least of which is a fall from grace. Jim has exposed the greatest vice for a man, while Liz has displayed the greatest virtue of a woman.

“Up In Michigan” shows a novice writer dealing with a highly uncomfortable subject matter. It is not Hemingway at his best. He apparently had great difficulty getting the story published in the United States due to its subject matter, and it was excluded from In Our Time (1925) for the same reasons.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Short Stories. New York, Scribner, 1955.

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