Hemmingway, genre and metaphor

In the 1920’s, Hemingway was bet that he could write a story using only six words and came up with the famous:

For sale:
Baby shoes.
Never worn.

The story works on many different levels, with the pathos of the image contrasted brilliantly with the banality of the language. Beyond that, however, it got me thinking about just how it manages to achieve this.

On the surface, it appears to belong to a genre of ‘For Sale’ classifieds as might be found in a newspaper or, these days, on Craigslist type websites. A closer look at this genre, however, shows that it is missing a number of features. There is no price or contact name/number. There is also no listed size or colour for the shoes. You could say that this is just because of the nature of the bet, only to use six words, and so these features were omitted. That, I think however, is the important point here: The text only looks like a ‘For Sale’ genre but in fact functions as a story genre. If it were actually posted in the classifieds it would fail as a text but it succeeds as a story.

I wonder, then, if there isn’t a generic metaphor, similar to grammatical metaphor, where a text takes on the surface features of one kind of genre but, in fact, functions as something different?

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