Welcome to “N” day in the A to Z Challenge. My theme for 2016 is Ernest Miller Hemingway (EMH).
“Now I Lay Me” is a short story written by EMH that was first published in his book Men Without Women in 1927. The title comes from the familiar prayer many of us know (or some variation of this prayer). “Now I Lay Me” is a good title for this particular story because the protagonist, Tenente, is having trouble sleeping since he was injured at night by a bomb blast and is scared to go to sleep and relive the experience each night. He imagines trout fishing in northern Michigan in detail so he won’t fall asleep. He follows the streams and visualizes each log and fish he catches and even what kind of bait he uses—anything to occupy his mind. He also tries to think of everybody he has ever known and say prayers for them.
When Tenante cannot sleep, he and another fellow in his room start talking. This other guy, John, talks about home and his wife and little girls. He tells Tenante that he should marry and that if he gets married, all will be better. Since John had kids, he got to go home before the next big offensive. Tenante was relieved about this later as it was one less worry for him. However, he could not make the connection between war and marriage and how all would get better if he only got married.
–EMH in the hospital in Milan, July 1918
This story (as most of Hemingway writings) probably reflects EMH’s real life experience, this time from being in Italy in World War I. Tenente describes the bomb blast and how it felt like his soul left his body and then returned. He fears that if he sleeps, it will happen again. The story seems to be about some form of post traumatic stress disorder, even though little was known about the condition at the time. EMH is trying to write how injured soldiers have strange fears and worries and what it is like to survive a very close call.
–old edition of Men Without Women by EMH
After first reading more about Hemingway’s life in detail years ago, I went to the SMU library and picked up a very old edition of this small book of short stories and read it in one sitting. I was mesmerized by how much substance was in each of these short stories. World War I or the Great War was a subject I knew too little about but have learned much more—mainly via fiction such as stories like these and from novels about the Great War.