Ernest Hemingway is a writer known for his characterizations of men and women. His men tend to be very macho and involved in using women for their own personal gain. His women tend to be somewhat naive and overwhelmed with the idea of being with men. As with many of Hemingway’s female characters, Liz in “Up in Michigan” has mistakenly taken infatuation for love. Liz is actually somewhat obsessed with Jim right from the beginning. Hemingway writes, “She liked it about how his teeth were when he smiled,…that his hair was black on his arms and how white they were above the tanned line when he washed up in the washbasin outside the house.
Liking that made her feel funny. ” Clearly, sentences like this demonstrate the girlish nature of Liz. She notices all the little things that women notice in infatuation with men. There is no mention of his character, of what kind of man he is, only of his physical characteristics. She feels “funny” inside thinking about his white skin where it disappears into his clothes. This is the equivalent of the pounding heartbeat of infatuation. In fact, “All the time Liz was thinking about Jim Gilmore.
He didn’t seem to notice her much” (Hemingway 82). Clearly, the feelings are one-sided here. It is impossible for Liz to love him if he takes no notice of her. Real love is about reciprocity. As the story goes on, Jim goes away on a hunting trip. “She couldn’t sleep well from thinking about him but she discovered it was fun to think about him too” (Hemingway 82). She is thinking about him in the ways of a girl, fascinated with every move he makes. She knows nothing of substance about him. Clearly, he is not thinking of her at all.
She even goes so far as to think that “everything would be all right when he came home” (Hemingway 83). Again, she is pinning her entire identity on this one man who doesn’t even give her the time of day. She has no understanding of real love and is actually setting herself up for someone like Jim to use her by being so needy. She has fallen into the female trap of believing in that fairy tale, romantic love that doesn’t exist in reality. She believes he will notice her and realize they were meant to be together.
When Jim returns from hunting, he sits and drinks with the boys. Liz tells the reader that “She didn’t want to go to bed yet because she knew Jim would be coming out and she wanted to see him as he went out so she could take the way he looked up to bed with her” (Hemingway 84). Again, as a little girl, she wants to take his image to bed and fantasize about it. She needs one last glimpse of him to make her feel complete. Jim does come out and immediately makes advances toward her in his drunken state.
She is scared but feels as though he is finally noticing her. She doesn’t want to ruin her chance. As he seduces her, there are phrases like, “it was cold but Liz was hot all over from being with Jim. ” She tells him no but doesn’t really mean it, and he basically takes advantage of her. Afterwards, she is “cold and miserable” and tells the reader that “everything felt gone” (Hemingway 85). The story ends with her covering Jim and kissing his cheek as well as trying to talk to him, but realizing on the dock that “a cold mist is coming” (Hemingway 85).
On the dock, with the “cold mist coming” (Hemingway 85), Liz has realized that like the barges that disappear earlier in the story, her idea of infatuation is gone. She understands that Jim was simply fulfilling his own physical need and that he has no feelings for her. She understands a basic truth that many men see love and sex completely differently than women do. She has, in effect, grown up. The cold mist coming is the way her life will change now that the illusion of romantic, fairy tale love is gone.
Jim has not noticed her, and she has paid an extremely high price for misunderstanding his intentions. She will either learn to value herself more and not be “available” for every man she likes or she will attach herself to another man like Jim who will take advantage of her and treat her badly, but this time she will be realistic in the fact that that is what he will do. She will not wait for the happy ending anymore. Her illusions about infatuation (love) have been shattered, and in a world such as this, she may never learn what real love, mutual trust and respect, is.