Short Story #222: A Canary for One by Ernest Hemingway

Title: A Canary for One

Author: Ernest Hemingway


Picture of Ernest Hemingyway -
The narrator, his wife, and another woman are on a train making their way across France.  The woman, referred to as the American woman begins to chat with them and talk about her bird, a canary that she just bought and learns that she is with fellow Americans.  She tells the wife that she is smart for marrying an American because European men are no good.  She explains that her daughter was seeing one but she sent her daughter homeward to avoid any more of it and now her daughter sits at home, heartbroken.  The American woman explains that two years ago, the daughter had med a nice man from a nice family in Switzerland (to which the narrator and wife had been to on their honeymoon).  While they are talking, they see on another track a train wreck and this puts an end to their conversation.  When they reach Paris, the narrator and his wife exit the train station to set up new homes, apart from one another.


It's the final line that makes the story.  You keep wondering where this tale is going and why you're left to hear from the American woman who babbles on.  I also wondered about the significance of the canary.  I kept thinking about the canary with a coal mine-a sign of troubling times which of course, could work herein but not nearly as neat.  I also like the contrast between the woman's views about men and relationships and the one staring her in the face as it reinforces her own inability to judge good relationships.  It's also curious that she is alone and there is no reference to a husband given the way she talks about significant others.

Short Story #222 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/20/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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