Hemingway, “The Battler” (1925)

Another presumptuously tedious if a touch affecting ├ętude of the Darwinian dynamics between young and old, Nick Adams and a washed up and now deranged pugilist–deranged from all the poundings he took. He unpredictably goes from courteous to angry and violent. He knows it. “I’m not quite right,” he says. Nick Adams is thrown out of a train he’d been hoboeing on. The pugilist and his black companion (why black?) are by a campfire. They see what happened to Nick. They invite him over. All’s well until the pugilist misinterprets something Nick says as an offense to the black man called Bugs, and whom Hemingway at least twice refers to as “the nigger.” Why? The pugilist turns violent. Bugs knocks him out and tells Nick to leave, for his safety, giving hims something toe at for the road. He leaves “The little man whom Nick knew by name as a former champion fighter.”

In Our Time, 1925

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