The Light of the World (Hemingway)

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The Light of the World
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: Two young men encountered various characters in a bar and a train station, including a bartender, a cook, and a group of prostitutes, leading to conversations about past experiences and memories.

Two young men entered a bar and ordered beers. The bartender was hostile towards them and refused to let them have any free food. They decided to leave and head to the train station, where they found a group of people waiting for a train, including five prostitutes and several lumberjacks.

One of the lumberjacks, a cook, tried to engage the young men in conversation, but they were more interested in talking to the prostitutes.

The Cook — man with white, thin hands; sensitive, defensive.

The largest of the prostitutes, Alice, had a sweet voice and a friendly demeanor, despite her size.

Alice — large prostitute; friendly, honest, emotional; has a pretty face and nice voice.

The conversation turned to a famous boxer named Steve Ketchel, and one of the other prostitutes, a peroxide blonde, claimed to have known and loved him.

Peroxide — blonde prostitute; proud, dramatic, claims to have known a famous boxer.

He was the greatest, finest, whitest, most beautiful man that ever lived, Steve Ketchel, and his own father shot him down like a dog.

The peroxide blonde spoke passionately about her love for Ketchel and how he was the most beautiful and talented man she had ever known. The cook questioned her story, but she insisted it was true. Alice then revealed that she was the only one in the room who had actually known Ketchel and accused the peroxide blonde of lying.

You're a dirty liar. You never laid Steve Ketchel in your life and you know it.

Alice shared a memory of Ketchel complimenting her, which the peroxide blonde dismissed as impossible. Alice insisted that her story was true and that she was a better person than the peroxide blonde, who only had false memories. The young men decided to leave the station, and the cook asked them which way they were going. They replied that they were going the opposite direction from him.