, Research Paper
Review of Ernest Hemingway and WritingsErnest Miller Hemingway was an American novelest andshort-story writer whose writings and personal life exerted aprofound influence on American writers of his time andthereafter. Many of his works are regarded as American classics,and some have subsequently been made into motion pictures. Areview of Hemingway reveals many interesting points about hislife, about the influences upon his works, and of the the themesand styles of his writings.An examination of Hemingway’s past brings to light manyinteresting points and helps to create a better understanding ofhow he came to be the master of the understated prose style. Thesecond of six children born to Clarence and Grace Hemingway,Ernest was born July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. The societyhe grew up in was one of strict disciplinarians. His parentswere no exception. In fact he spent much of his life trying toescape the “repressive code of behavior” (CLC, 177) that waspushed upon him as a child. After graduating high school in 1977he chose not to go to college and instead became a reporter forthe Kansas City Star, where he remained for seven months. Hisoppurtunity to break away came when he volunteered as a RedCross ambulance driver in Italy. In July of 1918 while servingalong the Piave River, he was severely wounded by shrapnel andforced to return home after recuperation in January 1919. Thewar had left him emotionally and physically shaken, andaccording to some critics he began as a result “a quest forpsychological and artistic freedom that was to lead him first tothe secluded woods of Northern Michigan, where he had spent hismost pleasant childhood moments, and then to Europe, where hisliterary talents began to take shape.” (CLC, 177) First he tooka part-time job as a feature writer for the Toronto Star, eagerto further pursue his journalistic ambitions. In the fall of1920 he became the contributing editor of a trade journal, whichtook him to Chicago. It was there that he met his first wife,Hadley Richardson. They were married in September 1921. InDecember of that year they went to France and for a 19 monthstrech Ernest travled over Europe and Anatolia as a foreigncorrespondant for the Toronto Star. In late 1923 they returnnedbriefly to Toronto where their son John was born, but Europe wasstill in Hemingway’s mind. In early 1924 he resigned his job atthe Star and moved back to Paris to launch his career as awriter. In an examination of Hemmingway’s writings is very much akin toa study of his life. Most all of his fiction was based upon orexpanded from events that he himself had experienced, or atleast that which he knew completely, inside and out. Being theperfectionist that he was, Ernest did not feel justified inwriting about topics of which he was not comepletely informed. Through his extensive travels in Europe and Africa, as well asother areas, he formed the groundwork for many of his most famedand cherished stories. His work as a Red Cross ambulance driver(mentioned earlier) in Italy ended up providing the theme andlocation of one of his most sucsessful novels, A Farewell toArms, published in 1929. Many of his tales, especially inearlier years, centered around a character named Nicholas Adams,undoubtably an incarnation of Hemingway himself. Just asHemingway before him, Nick Adams grew up around the Michiganwoods, went overseas to fight in the war, was severely wounded,and returned home. Earlier stories set in Michigan, such as”Indian Camp” and “The Three-Day Blow” show a young Nick to bean impressionable adolescent trying to find his path in abrutally violent and overwhelmingly confusing world. Like mostall of Hemingway’s main characters, Nick on the surface appearstough and insensitive. However, “critical exploration hasresulted in a widespread conclusion that the toughness stems notfrom insensitivity but from a strict moral code which functionsas the characters’ sole defense against the overwhelming chaosof the world.” (CLC, 177) Not just Nick Adams’ experiences, buthis attitudes as well seem to mimic those of his creator. Ernest’s 1924-25 adventures in Paris and Pamplona were thebasis of a memorable novel, The Sun Also Rises, which helped to
build him a reputation. The book was instantly sucsessful andmade him the leader of what was called “The Lost Generation.”(Grolier, 1) His 1938 play and mellodrama of the Spanish CivilWar, The Fifth Column, was composed a year earlier during a stayin Madrid. In 1933-34 He went on a big-game safari in Kenya andTanganyika where he became an avid hunter and picked up theknowledge for his 1935 nonfiction work, Green Hills of Africa. Also derived from his African experiences were two of beststories, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “The Short Happy Life ofFrancis Macomber.” Dubbed his most ambitios novel, “For Whom TheBell Tolls,” about the tragedy that had befallen the Spanishpeople, came following the time he spent serving as acorrespondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance duringthe Spanish Civil War. Other stories of his, while not based asdirectly on events in his life, were still of subjects he tookinterest in and was quite knowledgeable about. Upon review of Hemingway’s writings, it can be concluded thathis works, on the whole, reflect the themes and attitudes of hisown life, and tend to be rejecting of society. All of his worksseem to revolve around the psychologically wounded HemingwayHero, accurately representing his own ongoing struggle to facethe world with “grace under pressure.” (CLC, 178) All ofHemingway’s heros adhere to their own code, or set of moralstandards. They are usually men, tough and experienced in theworld they know, yet seemingly insensitive. Though they may seemcold on the surface, it has been said that “the fidelity to acode, to a discipline, may be an index to a sensitivity whichallows the characters to see, at moments, their true plight. Attimes, and usually at times of stress, it is the tough man, forHemingway, the disciplined man, who actually is aware of pathosor tragedy.” (CLC, 179) For example Harry, in “The Snows ofKilimanjaro,” who fits the above decription of a Hemingway Hero,lying incapacitated and ready to die, reveals through a seriesof flashbacks his own imperfections and regrets. What heexperiences on his death bed is a moment of clarity, and is akinto the man of discipline who, in a time of stress, finds his ownsensitivity and is able to see his true plight.The general idea behind Hemingway’s stories usually fall intoone of two categories. First, there is the story about the manwho as already adopted his code, or disciplines, in the worldwhich he cannot otherwise cope with. The second, which is usedmore often, is about growth and learning, about discovery of theworld’s evils and disorder, and about the steps taken towards”mastery of discipline” (CLC, 180) and the building of one’scode. One good example of the latter would be “The Short HapyLife of Francis Macomber” in which a weak spineless man onsafari in Africa (note the similarity to Hemingway’s ownexperience) experiences various achievements and rejectionswhich lead to his timely evolution from a normal twit to adisciplined man. Still the definitive hero of Hemingway’s talesis Nick Adams’, whose collected stories are entirely aboutjust that, the initiation into a swirling world of evil andconfusion, and the learning necesary to cope with it. Over halfof the first forty-five stories that Hemingway wrote focus onNick, or occasionally another young man so similar that theycould be one and the same. As a young boy, Nick’s reaction tothe world is that of shock. He stands to the side and observesevents, more than taking part in them. Terrible things happen tohim, and about him, as he grows up through the course ofHemingway’s work. His experiences teach the reader about life,and help to reveal the truths we would otherwise encounter in amanner similar to him. In other words, “He is the whipping-boyof our fearful awareness…He suffers our accidents and defeatsbefore they happen to us.” (CLC, 183)The impact which Ernest Hemingway’s work has left upon societyis nothing short of astounding. He has taught about life’s harshrealities and the importance of maintaining a code by which tolive and deal with those realities. Through his own extensiveexperiences he has compiled these stories of the dark side oflife, and of the good that can be found within. His own battlewith the unforgiving world in which we exist, from which hisstories were derived, was lost in 1961 when he committedsuicide. The world will forever bear his mark.