Tag Archives: execution

Manhood Vs. Death

They hanged Sam Cardinella at six o’clock in the morning in the corridor of the county jail. The corridor was high and narrow with tiers of cells on either side. All the cells were occupied. The men had been brought in for the hanging. Five men sentenced to be hanged were in the five top cells. Three of the men to be hanged were negroes. They were very frightened. One of the white men sat on his cot with his head in his hands. The other lay flat on his cot with a blanket wrapped around his head.
The came out onto the gallows through a door in the wall. There were seven of them including two priests. They were carrying Sam Cardinella. He had been like that since about four o’clock in the morning.
While they were strapping his legs together two guards held him up and the two priests were whispering to him. “Be a man, my son”, said one priest. When they came toward him with the cap to go over his head Sam Cardinella lost control of his sphincter muscle. The guards who had been holding him up both dropped him. They were both disgusted. “How about a chair, Will?” asked one of the the guards. “Better get one,” said a man in a derby hat.
When they all stepped back on the scaffolding back of the drop, which was very heavy, built of oak and steel and swung on ball bearings, Sam Cardinella was left sitting there strapped tight, the younger of the two priests kneeling beside the chair. The priest stepped back onto the scaffolding just before the drop fell.

Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time, Scribner Editions, 2003, Chapter XV (143)

Notes : Interchapters turn out to be the very best of Hemingway’s collection of short stories. Most of the vignettes deal with war concerns, bullfighting and murder and the characters are often confronted to death. This interchapter XV is relevant for its way of featuring manhood and fear, two significant topics for the author. In 1952, Ernest Hemingway will write in The Old Man and the Sea : ” A man is not made for defeat… a man can be destroyed but not defeated”.