To Have And Have Not Summary
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To Have and Have Not is a novel by Ernest Hemingway, published by Scribner’s in 1937. It began originally as a short story. It was published under the title “One Trip Across” in Cosmopolitan in 1934. During this story Harry Morgan was first introduced. Later, a second story was also published, this time in Esquire, called “The Tradesman’s Return” in 1936. This is when Hemingway decided to write a novel about the Harry Morgan character. It is Hemingway’s second novel set in the United States, and was written sporadically between 1935 and 1937, and was revised as he traveled back and forth from Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The novel focuses on the social commentary of the time and place, and was heavily influenced by Marxist ideologies. The novel was received with mixed reception.
The novel was adapted into several films. The first was in 1944, and starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The film changed the setting from Key West to Martinique under the Vichy regime. It became more of a romantic thriller, and focused on the romance between Harry and Marie. The second film was called The Breaking Point in 1950. It starred John Garfield and Patrick Neal. This time, the movie changed the setting to southern California and made Garfield a former PT Boat captain, but it was much more faithful to the book. The third film was called The Gun Runners in 1958. It starred Audie Murphy and Everett Sloane, and features a decidedly charismatic villain played by Eddie Albert. The Deep was a 1977 film that reused plot points and characters, but set the story in Bermuda, and added a Haitian drug lord as a villain. The 1987 version was called Captain Khorshid, and turned the story into a nationalized version, taking the events to the shores of the Persian Gulf.
The story begins with an honest, trusting Floridian named Harry Morgan. He tells his woeful story, during which he is cheated as a sports fishing guide after he turns down significant money to smuggle Cubans into the Florida Keys. Frankie, a friend of Morgan’s, introduces Morgan to a Chinese business man, Mr. Sing, who wants him to illegally transfer aliens to the Dry Tortugas. Morgan does this, but refuses to take his friends with him. Eddy the alcoholic stows away and is a useful accomplice for Morgan to double-cross Mr. Sing. While the aliens are locked below decks and with the money in hand, Morgan kills Sing and sinks his body.
The next spring, Morgan and his mate Wesley are both shot by Cuban officials while they are loading bootleg alcohol. They survive a major storm on the way to Key West. Morgan sinks the contraband in shallow water for another boat to pick up. Wesley cannot help because of the pain, but a high-ranking U.S. government official happens to be on a fishing trip, and sees the events. He turns Morgan in. Morgan’s boat is impounded and his right arm must be amputated.
Winter comes, and Morgan is desperate to keep his family alive and fed properly. He meets a sleazy lawyer named “Bee-lips” Simmons, who is brokering a meeting with Cuban revolutionaries, and Morgan quickly plans another double-cross. He has no problem stealing his boat back from the Navy Yard impound, but soon loses it again after someone sees it in hiding. Morgan then decides to charter Freddy’s boat and turns for home. It happens to be the last time he will make it home. Morgan’s wife, Marie, is a feisty woman, who fetches the Thompson submachine gun for Morgan, and loads clips for him. She weeps as they say goodbye.
The Cubans rob a bank, and then race aboard. They kill Tracy, and force Morgan to race seaward. While Emelio expounds on the Cuban revolution, Morgan looks for a way to avenge Albert. Morgan opens fire on the robbers, but only manages to wound one of them, who shoots him in the gut.
Morgan is drifting aimlessly in agony and despair, and both “Gordons” commit adultery and their marriages end with bitterness and anger. Morgan somehow ends up in Freddy’s bar, and buys drinks for all of the World War I veterans. He punches MacWalsey, who is currently sleeping with his wife. Then the Coast Guard tows Freddy’s boat to Key West, past the yacht basin. It is here that the reader sees a small sliver of the idle, rich lives, so different from the rest of the novel, before the rest of Morgan’s fate is revealed.
These rich elites include a gay couple, a desperate tax evader, a perfect-looking postcard family, two Estonian writers, and a beautiful insomniac with an alcoholic husband and a lover. As the rich sleep, a crowd begins to form to watch Morgan’s fate. He is carried ashore and taken to the hospital, where he dies during surgery. The sheriff secures the confusing crime scene. Marie does not go to Morgan’s funeral, and after a week she reconsiders everything she thought she knew about him. She decides she prefers to be the victim rather than the survivor.
First things first: readers coming to To Have and Have Not after seeing the Bogart/Bacall film should be forewarned that about the only thing the two have in common is the title. The movie concerns a brave fishing-boat captain in World War II-era Martinique who aids the French Resistance, battles the Nazis, and gets the girl in the end. The novel concerns a broke fishing-boat captain who agrees to carry contraband between Cuba and Florida in order to feed his wife and daughters. Of the two, the novel is by far the darker, more complex work.
The first time we meet Harry Morgan, he is sitting in a Havana bar watching a gun battle raging out in the street. After seeing a Cuban get his head blown off with a Luger, Morgan reacts with typical Hemingway understatement: "I took a quick one out of the first bottle I saw open and I couldn't tell you yet what it was. The whole thing made me feel pretty bad." Still feeling bad, Harry heads out in his boat on a charter fishing expedition for which he is later stiffed by the client. With not even enough money to fill his gas tanks, he is forced to agree to smuggle some illegal Chinese for the mysterious Mr. Sing. From there it's just a small step to carrying liquor--a disastrous run that ends when Harry loses an arm and his boat. Once Harry gets mixed up in the brewing Cuban revolution, however, even those losses seem small compared to what's at stake now: his very life.
Hemingway tells most of this story in the third person, but, significantly, he brackets the whole with a section at the beginning told from Harry's perspective and a short, heart-wrenching chapter at the end narrated by his wife, Marie. In between there is adventure, danger, betrayal, and death, but this novel begins and ends with the tough and tender portrait of a man who plays the cards that are dealt him with courage and dignity, long after hope is gone. --Alix Wilber