In “The light of the world” written by Ernest Hemingway Steve Ketchel, a boxer symbolizes a Jesus figure for a woman named Alice. Alice, a 350-pound unpleasant prostitute struggles with her current life. Her central being focuses on the belief that she had a s*xual relationship with Steve Ketchel.

Her complex of being ugly and having an unpleasant appearance gave birth to this wishful illusion. Nick Adams, the main Hemingway character, believes that Alice, despite having given up on life, still has the chance to change and live a happy life.

Steven K. Hoffman would call this belief that Alice has as “nada”. Nada is a term used in Hemingway’s story “A clean well lighted place”. Steven K. Hoffman interpreted the word in an essay he wrote. The word nada in English means “nothing”. But further, it means much more than the simple word ‘nothing’. Nada from Alice’s view means that there is nothing behind her belief, which means that her life is not based on a concrete belief.

She does not believe in any religion; her religion is Ketchel, which is due to her place in society. In society, she is ranked very low. A prostitute has nothing to say in our society. As she is ranked that low by society, she can’t set her goals higher.

Her goals could be the goals Jesus talks about. Her sole goal in life was to sleep as many guys as she could. Back to nada, it means that she has nothing; nothing to believe in and nothing to live for. Alice lives in an illusion. It seems that she constantly tries suppressing the fact that she is a fat prostitute. How much lower can you get? She suppresses her problems with her dreams and illusions.

The most important belief is that she had a s*xual relationship with Ketchel. That is her main belief. For a normal American, Jesus would the most important belief. Ketchel gives her the strength to withstand her complexes. Ketchel, in other words, symbolizes Jesus, which itself reflects how miserable her life is. When comparing Jesus with Ketchel, you will not find any solid connection. Ketchel is just a popular boxer among her friends and she knows nothing more about him. For her, Ketchel is more than just a man to have s*x with. For her, Ketchel is Jesus.

“There was never a man like that.”, said Alice. Alice did not succeed in her life. Not that it is over, but until this point, she failed to make herself happy. She is a prostitute, not happy with her life and most importantly; she has no belief. Her only belief is in Ketchel. As it seems, she does not want to change. “Leave me with my memories … With my true, wonderful memories.” Notice how she insists that her memories are true; she is living a lie. The only person who seems to see Alice differently is Nick Adams. Nick Adams is found in most of the Hemingway stories.

Ernest Hemingway’s Short Stories: Nick Adams

What I conclude then is that Nick represents Hemingway in each story. Further, this could mean that Hemingway himself found that a person like Alice still has the potential to change. Nick saw Alice as someone with a unique personality of her own unlike how others would see her. They see her as a fat wh*re. People can’t get past the looks and they are blinded by the good things about Alice.

Nick, on the other hand, sees Alice as an attractive girl, not in the sense of having s*x. Alice probably wanted that from Steve. She wanted someone to respect her. Unlike Ketchel, Nick is not an illusion. He is a real person and could become a real memory. Nick could change the way she thinks and therefore her belief. Conclusively, I see that Hemingway offers a solution to Alice.

Nick Adams is the embodiment of Hemingway. If Alice would join a real Ketchel such as Nick, she would rehabilitate and become a happy human being. Nick would allow her to believe in something more intelligent, such as the real Jesus figure. Since a boxer is not the kind of person to take as a belief.

Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "Ernest Hemingway’s The Light of the World: Summary & Analysis," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,

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Blake W.
Blake W.
1 year ago

The interpretation of the storyline is good, but is difficult to absorb due to the composition defects.