Arts Books

The Torrents of Spring


The Torrents of Spring was written by Ernest Hemingway.  The novella is his first major piece of writing.  It was published in 1926 and is a parody of Dark Laughter (1925) by Sherwood Anderson.  The satire was written in ten days and lacks the traditional edits of a Hemingway novel.  The reviews of The Torrents of Spring were mixed.  Some critics dismissed the writing.  F. Scott Fitzgerald declared The Torrents of Spring a masterpiece.

The story is set in Northern Michigan.  Yogi Johnson and Scripps O’Neil work in a pump factory.  Johnson is a World War I veteran.  O’Neil is a writer.  The men stare out a window.  A flashback begins.  Scripps loses his wife.  He returns towards his small home and thinks about his daughter.  He has a problem with drinking.  He arrives home.  The house is empty.

Scripps decides to move to Chicago to find a job.  His plan is to buy land and hold onto it as an investment.  He heads down to the railroad tracks and becomes lost in thought.  The train is moving too fast to hitch a ride.  He ponders staying in Michigan and opening a furniture business in Grand Rapids.  Time passes.  The delusion wanes.  A stranger tells the writer he is in Petoskey.

Chicago – Photo Credit: kevin dooley

Petoskey, Michigan

He peers inside a barbershop.  The precision of the work pleases him.  He continues and reflects on his childhood.  Hunger.  Scripps enters a restaurant and orders.  He talks to the waitress.  He eats.  The waitress tells him there is work at the pump factory.  He leaves and applies for a job.  The foreman asks if he has experience.  He says he does not and is assigned to piecework.  Yogi shows him around.  Scripps confesses that his wife left him.

Day one concludes.  The work is dull.  He is glad he can use his hands.  Free time is spent at the restaurant.  He grows close to the waitress.  The two confess their feelings.  Everyone cries.  The torrents of spring.  The waitress declares they are married.  Scripps promises to buy her a hat as a wedding gift.  They leave the diner.  Thirty minutes pass.  They return as husband and wife and eat.  Another waitress grabs his attention.  The laughter of the cook permeates the hum of the establishment.

Work is slow.  The waitress begins to think she will lose Scripps.  The new waitress Mandy worries her.  The more she thinks.  The more she hurts.  She starts reading newspapers and books from the library.  Anything to keep up with her dear husband.  The narrative flips.  Hemingway enters and notes that he does not think the waitress will stay married.  He is not positive.  Yogi Johnson will become the focus.

grand rapids
Grand Rapids, Michigan – Photo Credit: JohnE777

Yogi Johnson

He leaves the pump factory.  The foreman let them go early.  He went to the library the night before.  He has lost his desire for women.  He retains his love for horses.  He sees a few and keeps walking.  He meets some Native Americans.  They ask him about the war and for liquor and tobacco.  Yogi talks.  Everyone listens and goes back to town.  They enter a pool hall and play.  They finish.  Yogi goes to a bar.  There are autographed photographs of celebrities on the wall.

They leave and walk towards nothing.  Yogi thinks about a quote from a French writer.  The words bring him back to Paris.  The bright city seems so far away.  They enter a restaurant.  Yogi watches the customers come and go.  Scripps is there.  A naked woman wearing moccasins enters.  She is forced to leave.  Scripps is distraught.  Yogi’s libido is reawakened.

Scripps talks to the waitress.  His wife ignores him.  She knows the marriage is hopeless and makes one final attempt to save it.  She asks to leave.  He refuses.  She departs and makes a final glance.  Scripps does not notice.  Mandy tells a story.  Her friend was mesmerized by a stuffed flamingo in the wall of an English castle.  The story pauses.  The two continue their talk.  The story concludes.  Another begins.  Scripps tries to listen.  His mind drifts deep into the night.

Petosky, Michigan – Photo Credit: Scottb211

It is midnight.  The town is sleeping.  Yogi and the naked woman in moccasins walk towards the railroad.  He strips as they progress.  The clothes are thrown against the cold metal tracks.  Yogi is left with his shoes.  The naked couple moves along.  A dog follows.  Two strangers appear in the background.  They follow and grab Yogi’s clothes.  They are impressed with the quality of the threads and decide to sell them to the Salvation Army.  The wind warms.  The ice melts.  Hemingway tells the reader that the story took ten days to write.  He adds details to the wife’s story.  Her mother died of the bubonic plaque.  The doctor warned the authorities.  He was ignored.  The Torrents of Spring ends.  The reader rests.  The plague spreads.

the torrents of spring
The Torrents of Spring cover – Photo Credit: Public Domain

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