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The Nick Adams Stories Summary & Study Guide Description
The Nick Adams Stories Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
Nick Adams, appears in All Stories
Nick is the central character in all of the short stories in the collection. As the preface notes, Nick is largely a biographical creation, but his life should not be taken to strictly mirror Hemingway's. It should be noted that Nick's story is not coherent or continuous through these stories, indicating that he perhaps served as more of a vehicle for exploring a topic or situation than as a literary creature who was supposed to stand wholly on his own. For example, Nick goes crazy from a poorly treated head wound in "The Way You'll Never Be," but all stories taking place later in life depict him as perfectly sane. Likewise, Littless, his sister who features in "The Last Good Country," is never mentioned (at least by name) in any other stories.
The stories span a large portion of Nick's life. The first stories depict him as a skittish young boy slowly maturing under his father's guidance, whom he looks up to greatly. Nick is next presented as a young man—perhaps in his mid- to late-teenage years. He still lives at home, at least in some of the stories, but is fairly independent and travels around quite a bit. Nick then joins the military and spends a lot of time in hospitals, sometimes injured and sometimes working. He is injured in three different ways in the stories. Once he is hit in the spine (by what, it is not clear, but it does not appear to be life-threatening); once he is seriously wounded in the head, which leads to serious brain damage; and once his leg is injured. The leg injury is perhaps referenced in a later story, in which he cites his leg as a reason for not being able to pull off a ski maneuver ("Cross-Country Snow"). After the service, he returns to the states and lives on his own before settling down and marrying his wife, Helen. Throughout the stories, his interest in writing is mentioned occasionally, but it would seem that it becomes a serious interest only late in his life.
Littless, appears in The Last Good Country
Littless is Nick's younger sister who features prominently in "The Last Good Country." When Nick chooses to run away from home to avoid being taken to boarding school for violating gaming laws, Littless comes along with him and helps him live in the wilderness. She obviously looks up very much to her brother and is eager to try to help him out and please him whenever she has the opportunity. They are very close with one another and Hemingway mentions in the opening of the book that the two have a relationship that is exclusive of other members of the family. In fact, the two have a relationship that is a little too close and intimate for siblings. She seems to have fantasized quite a bit about marrying him and having his children, though, given her young age (about eleven or twelve) it is likely these exist only in a confused state. Nick, in turn, obviously loves Littless is very much and also has feelings that border on incestuous (without ever being sexually explicit). The two kiss frequently and talk about how much they love one another, and the escape into the wilderness seems at times more like a honeymoon.
Littless is mentioned by name only in "The Last Good Country" but it is possible she is referred to in "Fathers and Sons" when Nick says, recalling his childhood, "There was only one person in his family that he liked the smell of, one sister. All others he avoided all contact with" (pp. 265-6).
Henry Adams, appears in Three Shots, Indian Camp, The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife
Henry Adams is Nick's father. He is a medical doctor and is shown helping out Indians in need in "Indian Camp." In his childhood, Nick has a great admiration for his father and learns much from him. Later in his life, recalling his childhood, he is grateful that his father taught him how to hunt and fish, since those are two hobbies which he has retained his entire life. His father evidently met some kind of unfortunate, untimely end, but the exact nature is not described.
Mr. Packard, appears in The Last Good Country
Mr. Packard is Nick's uncle who helps him escape from the wardens in "The Last Good Country." He was once a U.S. Postmaster but now owns a hotel and grocery store near Nick's home. He avoids the hotel, though, because he says he does not like a hotel without a bar. He helps Nick by furnishing him with supplies (or, rather, reimbursing his family for supplies Nick took).
Mrs. Packard, appears in The Last Good Country
Mrs. Halley Packard is Nick's aunt. She runs her husbands hotel and is complicit in some Nick's violations of gaming laws by buying the trout that he catches from the stream. Like her husband, she is supportive of Nick and tells him he can stay in the hotel or take any provisions if necessary.
Splayfoot / Henry J. Porter, appears in The Last Good Country
Splayfoot (Mr. Packard's nickname for him, on account of his large feet) or Henry J. Porter (his proclaimed real name, though Mr. Packard does not believe it) is a warden from "down state" who, with Evans, is looking for Nick who has violated gaming laws by shooting a buck. Splayfoot, according to Mr. Packard, is dangerous—he once framed a man for a murder which he apparently committed—and Mr. Packard worries that he will harm Nick.
Evans, appears in The Last Good Country
Evans is the local warden who is searching for Nick with Splayfoot. Evans, in contrast to his more savvy partner, is rather incompetent and clueless, which is perhaps the reason why a warden from another county came to help him in his search.
Evans' Boy, appears in The Last Good Country
Evans' son never appears in "The Last Good Country" but frequently spies on Nick and reports his misdoings to his father. Suzy and Mr. Packard fear that Evans' boy might already be on Nick's track. Nick gets fearful when he realizes that Evans' boy might know the area he and his sister are camping in.
Suzy, appears in The Last Good Country
Suzy is a hired helper in the Adams house in "The Last Good Country" and, like most everyone else in town, is actively trying to help Nick escape from the wardens. She rides with the wardens to Mr. Packard's grocery store and informs him of the situation.
Kate, appears in Summer People, On Writing
Kate is a girl Nick is attracted to and has sex with at least once after returning from the service. Given the nature of their romantic encounter, it is likely that it was not a one-time occurrence, however. Nick's interest in her appears to be purely sexual and, to some extent, exploitative.
Helen, appears in Wedding Day, Cross-Country Snow
Helen is Nick's wife. Little is known about her, and she appears only briefly in "Wedding Day" when the newly-married couple are rowing to a cottage where they are going to spend their honeymoon. The two spend some time apart apparently (for reasons unknown), as Nick spends at least a few months with his friend George in Europe. In "Cross-Country Snow," Nick mentions that she will be having their first child.
This section contains 1,206 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)