God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

Hemingway, Ernest

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: Jan-28-1997


Two physicians sit in the Emergency Room of a Kansas City hospital on Christmas Day. The narrator's references to the incompetence or past errors of each is slipped quietly into the text as the story unfolds.

The doctors are telling the narrator of their most interesting encounter of this holiday season: a distraught adolescent, in a religious frenzy, had come in requesting castration for his "awful lust." The two docs managed to blunder the encounter so sufficiently that the boy left, only to return a few hours later bleeding dangerously from his penile self-amputation. The self-centered conversation returns to verbal ego-play between the two physicians, without a hint that either has considered the magnitude of the medical malfeasance against the boy.


Terse, pared to the bone in typical Hemingway style, this little vignette displays in horrifying images the self-mutilation of a young man troubled by his sexual arousal and his sense of its sinfulness on the eve of a significant religious holiday. The child gives the cavalier and crass physicians plenty of reason to be worried--he is desperate, demonstrating one of the dangerous flaws of the Christian ban on many matters sexual, that of impressionable and fragile teens acting on their interpretations of religious cant.

Unfortunately for the boy, the physicians don't worry enough. They say all the wrong things, then let him go away more agitated than ever. The following morning, after the tragedy of their neglect is made evident, the readers find the docs involved again in the meaningless banter that seems to represent the limits of their sensibility.


First published: 1925

Primary Source

The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway


Charles Scribner's Sons

Place Published

New York



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