Using Love to Justify Sex in A Very Short Story
At first glance unusually normal, at second glance unusually striking, the title "A Very Short Story" reveals Hemingway's perception of a perhaps unforgotten war experience. Man went to war. He met woman. They spent many nights together. They considered marriage. He went home without her. She moved on. He moved on. The end. The story, the relation of events, is indeed short. This is not eternal spiritual love; instead, this is the animalistic, barbaric sexual act- sex and love for the sole purpose and convenience of sex itself. Then it is over.
The story begins on "ONE HOT evening in Padua" (Hemingway, 65), "hot" relating to passionate feelings, and "evening" as the perfect time for an affair. The reader can deduct from the reference to Padua, a city in northeast Italy, that perhaps the character is at war, and in fact, this is confirmed in the fourth paragraph with a reference of an "armistice" (65). The main character himself is referred to as "he", though, knowing the author's biographical history, and presence in the war, "Hemingway" is a presumable substitution. "They" (65), his war buddies, "carried him up onto the roof", they carried him because he was injured, but also, as "the others went down and took the bottles with them", very likely intoxicated. There, he and the female figure, "Luz" meet, she "sat on the bed", and "was cool and fresh in the hot night". Immediately, alcohol, guy and girl, a rather convenient bed, and a "hot" night left alone on the rooftop combine, forming a passionate love affair.
So, who is this Luz? Well, apparently, as she was "on night duty" (65), and she was the one who "prepared him for the operating table", she is a nurse, attending to the love and physical wounds of our dear male character. Not only, though, was she "on night duty", she actually, "stayed on night duty for three months. They were glad to let her." (65). Her relationship was such with the patient, and so allowed and approved, that she spent the night shift indeed, in his bed. Hemingway writes that, ridiculously enough, "After he got on crutches he used to take the temperatures so Luz would not have to get up from the bed." (65); he performed the nurse's medical duties, that her physical exertion might only be spent nightly in their erotic activities. This role switching is given two thumbs up by the other patients, who "all knew about it. They all liked Luz.", and our character, "As he walked back along the halls" after lessening the nurse's work load, "thought of Luz in his bed." (65), awaiting his return. Thus the author gives us two descriptions of episodes, both physical, neither emotional, of contact between the characters.
This is enough, of course, to qualify for marriage talk, as the soldier is soon leaving for the front. The erotic love affair, however, doesn't move much beyond mere talk, because, "they wanted to get married, but there was not...