“Fifty Grand” is the final short story in my Ernest Hemingway collection The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories. A couple of the stories, like the title story, I read prior to my blog.
In “Fifty Grand”, Hemingway deals with the world of boxing, a sport of which he was an avid fan, if my understanding is correct. This story of boxer Jack Brennan is told from the point of view of his friend Jerry Doyle.
The anticipation of Jack’s match with Jimmy Walcott makes up the majority of the story with what seem like rather mundane, everyday conversations between Jack and Jerry. They even play a little game of cribbage prior to the match. As usual, though, Hemingway manages to reveal an amazing level of depth to these characters through these dull moments. When Jack has had a little too much to drink, he reveals to Jerry that he is betting against himself in the upcoming match – he’s betting $50,000.
A considerable amount of “omission” makes the reader wonder. Do certain side characters have any influence over Jack in urging him to throw the match? Or is it Jack’s own idea? For the record, Jack puts up his own money. What does Walcott know about Jack’s betting endeavors?
I’ll leave the result of the match for readers to find out on their own; however, I will indicate the match involves both boxers getting hit “below the belt”. Based on what I know about Hemingway’s heroic code, I don’t think he would criticize anyone for making a little money by betting on sports; however, I’m not convinced he would have considered someone a true hero who bet against himself – hence, the damaged manhood.