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To Have and Have Not

To Have and Have Not is a 1937 novel by Ernest Hemingway about Harry Morgan, a fishing boat captain who runs contraband between Cuba and Florida. The novel depicts Harry as an essentially good man who is forced into blackmarket activity by economic forces beyond his control. Initially, his fishing charter Johnson skips out on the bill, forcing Harry to attempt smuggling Chinese immigrants into Florida in order to feed his family. (He double-crosses the immigrants and returns them to Cuba.) The Great Depression features prominently in the novel, forcing depravity and starvation on the residents of Key West, referred to as "Conchs."

The novel consists of two earlier short stories ("One Trip Across" and "The Tradesman's Return") that make up the opening chapters and a novella (that makes up two-thirds of the book) written later. The style is distinctly modernistic with the narrative being told from multiple viewpoints at different times by different characters. It begins in first person (Harry's viewpoint), moves to third person omniscient, then back to first person (Al's viewpoint), then back to first person (Harry's again), then back to third person omniscient where it stays for the rest of the novel. As a result, names of characters are frequently written under the chapter headings to indicate who is narrating that section of the novel.

Legend has it that Hemingway wrote the book as part of a contractual obligation and hated it. Howard Hawks, who adapted the novel for film claimed that Hemingway had told him it was his worst book, and a "bunch of junk". It is also claimed that he wrote the book at the Compleat Angler Hotel on Bimini, in the Bahamas.

Film adaptations

The 1944 film To Have and Have Not nominally based on the novel and directed by Howard Hawks, moved the story's setting from Key West to Martinique under the Vichy regime, and stars Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan, and Lauren Bacall.

The second film version, titled The Breaking Point (1950), was directed by Michael Curtiz and stars John Garfield. It shifted the action to southern California and made Garfield a former PT Boat captain.

The third film version, titled The Gun Runners (1958), was directed by Don Siegel and stars Audie Murphy in the Bogart/Garfield role and Everett Sloane in Walter Brennan's part as the alcoholic sidekick, although Sloane's interpretation was less overtly comedic than Brennan's.

Pauline Kael has claimed that the ending was used for John Huston's film Key Largo (1948), and that "One Trip Across" was made into The Gun Runners (1958).


Pauline Kael on film adaptations: capsule review of To Have and Have Not for The New Yorker, reprinted in 5001 Nights at the Movies.

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