“Up in Michigan” is one of the three stories published in Three Stories and Ten Poems, that first book of EMH’s works published in 1923. This short story is set in Horton Bay, Michigan, an area very familiar to the author. Throughout his early life, the Hemingway family spent their summers in northern Michigan each year near Petoskey. Only 10 miles away was the small community of Horton Bay in which EMH spent a lot of time and had many friends.
In “Up in Michigan,” Liz Coates is a waitress that works in the local café for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. She has an infatuation with the local blacksmith, Jim, who pays no attention to her. After a short hunting trip Jim and two others have dinner at the café and then celebrate with drinks. They have more than a few. Jim goes into the kitchen when Liz is alone and does more than just hug her—he caresses her breasts and then asks her to go on a walk with him. The infatuated young woman walks to the end of a nearby dock with him and Jim explores her body with his hands. Liz tells him to stop but he doesn’t. He then forces himself on her and passes out on top of her. She is crying and gets out from under him. She kisses his cheek when he won’t wake up and leaves her coat wrapped around him because it is cold. She then walks home.
This sad and short story, written by EMH in his very early twenties, lets the reader see how little Jim cared for young Liz and how he used her and probably won’t even remember the encounter due to being drunk. The situation for Liz will be completely different. She admired him from afar and probably wanted to please Jim and might even blame herself for what happened. Jim had his way with Liz, but there are only questions for the reader about Liz. Liz’s relationships with men will probably be affected by this encounter. Was it really a rape that occurred? Why did she wrap him with her coat after he was cruel to her? Was EMH in a similar situation or situations like this in Horton Bay? Why did he choose to portray the point of view of Liz in this story? Read the story for yourself a few times and see how many questions you have and see how much is hidden in EMH’s simple words.
You can read the story HERE.