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War and death in the fiction of Ernest Hemingway

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WAR AND.DEATH IN THE
FICTION OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY I.
A Thesis Presented to
the Faeiulty'/of the Department of English
University of Southern California
In Partial Fulfillment'
J
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Artsr
John Brunner
1940
UMI Number: EP44119
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UMI EP44119
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T h i s thesis, w r i t t e n by
JOHN C. BRUNNER
u n d e r the d i r e c t i o n o f A.t.s. F a c u l t y C o m m it te e ,
a n d a p p r o v e d by a l l its m e m b e r s , has been
presented to a n d accepted by the C o u n c i l on
G r a d u a t e S t u d y a n d Research in p a r t i a l f u l f i l l ­
m ent o f the re q u ire m e n ts f o r the degree o f
MA STJ3R __OF..AB.TS
D ean
Secretary
D a te ...
F a c u lty Com m ittee
C hairm an
WAR AND DEATH IN THE FICTION OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY
I
II
III
IV
PURPOSE AND SCOPE
‘WAR AND DEATH AND THE HEMINGWAY LIFE AND LEGEND
WAR AND DEATH-AND THE MOOD OF THE TIMES
'WAR AND DEATH AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
V
WAR'AND DEATH AND PLOT DEVELOP ME NT
VI
WAR AND DEATH AND STYLE
VII
''WAR AND DEATH AND STYLE (SENSE IMPRESSIONS)
VIII CONCLUSION
WAR AND DEATH IN THE FICTION OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY
CHAPTER I
PURPOSE AND SCOPE
The feeling for death, formed from experiences in
and immediately after the first World War, has played a
great part in .directing the growth and development!of the
writing of Ernest Hemingway,
What is there is death and youucannot deal in
it each day and know each day there is a chance of
receiving it without having it make a very plain • ,
mark. 1
"if ■
"*
;P. A'" '
V
And fromriaasurfaee viewpoint, these marks!of experience are plain enough.
The material thattHemihgway-
1 Ernest tHemingway, Death in the Afternoon. ,p.2.
chooses to write about leans.’always- toward war; and ifr
not war, sudden death*
But this experience goes deeper than the choice of*
subject matter. . Human destruction has become for Mr.
Hemingway the nucleus of a-philosophy*
Theedoctrine of?
perpetual annihilations underlies most ofrthiseauthor 's :
work; it determines the flow oft his..plots, governs-thee
actions of hisicharaeters; and tgreatlyyaffectsshis style.
The courting of violence, .darkness, and even-deaths
is a"kind of splendid, often very beautiful,.disease
of the imagination noticeable during periods of?
social decay. It is frequently the mosttpowerful
writers ?’of an epoch
Robinsons Jeffers is an ex­
ample
who are afflicted with it; and among themi
must surelyvbe ;named Ernest Hemingway.
By looking?steadily a t sthe end of things, Mr. Hem­
ingway has discoveredlhis-principle of life.
The a?
wareness of the ultimate devaluation, of all things-'in
death has given life a f u l l e r and more ffantic; meanings.
The Spanish torero breathes a racier-air and loves
more deeplyybecause he meets in the afternoon on thehot sands— -death.
And so with Hemingway's work, thee
tragicesense of life has given it its: texture, its.col-
P
Clifton-Fadiman, 11Hemingway, An American Byron,1’ Na­
tion. 136, (January 18, 1933)» p. 64.
3
or, and as we shall see,, itsrcurious/restrictions.
Thus, in examining/Ernest Hemingway's attitude:to­
ward death we find his attitude toward life.
And we
see that he is concerned with death*onlyTin so farrasit affects the living; his interestt: stops-with the ex^*
/
piration of the last breath from.the body.
What he 1
/
striven to catch in his-endlessobackgrounds ~of war and
impending cwarris the emotion thattthe imminence of death
produces in his characters«
The soldier in the nerve-
wracking apprehension of battleeand the bullfighter in
his j?itualisticcflirtation with the horns«catch the
Hemingway, mood as do no others;
this need of fatality
It is this mood-—
that- is the subject of our in­
vestigation*
It is /then the purpose of this rework to point outt
the influence of this philosophy/of "deathLon the writing
of Mr* . H e m i n g w a y *r We shall expect to find the effecttofc
this fatalistic doctrine i n his?plots, ,in‘-hissstyles i m
his attitudesBand ideas*,, and in the man himself.
The worksnof "ErnesttHemingway that were used in:
thisBinvestigation are his"short stories;, novels, and
two semi-fictional books of sport; and travel.
In Our
Times *(1925), his -first important* volume, revolves
4
chiefly /around aayouthhnamed Nick, and contrastasquiet
sketchesaof'adolescent;love with violence in Michigan
lumber'camps,,war, .Italy, and matadors.
The Sun Also Rises (1926), which Harry Hartwick
calls as’’study in truncated emotion’i
’ is; concerned with/
that grouppof young men and women who came out of the
War minusstheir previous-faith in humanity, duty,.and
religion. 3
Expatriates* ,writers,- artists, and ladiess
withnnymphlc "appetites move from; one bar to another to
cover up /their boredom* t h e alcoholic haze^lifting onlyyafter one of their inevitable sobering-up showers;.
There issa fee1 ing that the War complicated existence*
and there i s jaacounter effort to reduce lifdeto its:
most simple termsf*
The pleasure that these characters
derive from/.bullfights* ,eafe quarrels* and violent lovee
affairsris a ->mere anodyne—
to help thenr endureewhati.
they cannot improve •
Men Without Women/ (1927) is; a second volume of short
stories /about; a g o n y m a t a d o r s > and gangsters .
Included
in this collection are?"The Undefeated," "The Killers,"
and "Hills?Like White Elephants.*" brief distillations?of’
^ Harry /Hartwick'* The Foreground of American/ Fiction, p.156.
5.
e mot ion that treveal Hemingwayfs: power ass a writer of the.,
short story• .
There was a rethrn to the novel form in A Farewell
to Armss(1929)» . Although hymned by its publishers;as
"the^powerful story vofra loveeconceived in the muck of ’
war which evolves-into beauty," this, novel does manages
to make one of the many thousands of'careless, littlec
wartime romances significant?
Its significance isfthatt
of'escape,,for-in the clumsy, .stumbling;wordssof lovee
thatt,Lieutenantt,Henry expresses-to Catharine Barclays
issthe pitiahle effort off a&boy to seize upon reality/
among-the nightmare shapes-off war.
With'hisoideals^,
roots? religion; destroyed^ by the War,, Lieutenant! Henr y ’s world is oredUcedl to the body of’the woman he loves;,,
and his love,,although rarelyv rising above the.physical,,
continues-to g r o w u n t i l it, like everythingrelseoin thee
scheme of TErnesttHemingway y .comes to an end in death.
To Have and Have Nott(1937) issthe only importanti
Hemingway novel with a .background in the-UnitedJ^,ates%
and this -has itsssetting in that, remote appendage of'thee
Union, .Key Westt,
Death again forms the central theme
(there are twelve fdlly embellished killings^ and’enough
anathametized four letter words-.are distributed;through­
out to secure its .popularity among the.sociallyrcon-
\
!
’
sciouss
The struggle is that of individual! sm?j .ass epito­
mized lin the surly/person o f ■HarryvMorgan, againsttthes
vested interestfcsoffsociety* . Morgan is reduced to rumrunning, international intrigue, and finally .'mass’murder
in a ?futile effort to keep himself and his^.f&mily /at
least in: the upper stratum of thee ’’have notsv"
Hiss
dying /dictum, that "no matter how aeman alone ain't -got'
no bloody-_______ chance," issnot so much: a'commentary
on the failure of individualism: under democraticslaw/
as it israarevelatiomof the disintegrating nature of
life* 4
Not only the "have nots" but also the "haves"
find their standards collapsing and their ethics•e v a p - orating-/ass the pressure of "existence forces them'to
uglier and uglier1deeds,' until at length there is noth­
ing/left but "the/cleansing thought of death.
Then, ass-
found out Harry's widows 5Marie, "Yq’uli just go dead in­
side and everything is easy.
Mr* Hemingway has written aacomplete manual on bull­
fighting, which is also in theeway of"an "Anatomy.of
Death’*"
Death in the Afternoon (1932) stressessthe idea
^ Ernest Hemingway, ,To. Have and Have Not, p. 225* •
5 Ihidi, p. 261..
77
of death as "the alter ego of lifesj and nowhere else is
this 'basic concept so dramatized asnit is in the corrida?.
de toros i For in the bullring the tragedy -of death as­
sumes the color of an ageless-traditiom and is endowed;
with the flowing harmony of motion.
The contest that
takes place on the afternoon sands sis- but the iterated,
tragedy of life', in which each: movement ide.ads-too the in­
evitable denouement of destruction,. And in the Span**
ish people, retaining a osense of the primitive,,Hemingsees an interest in death not dissimilar to:his own:
They think aagreat deal about death and when theyy
have a-religion they have one which believes that
life is much shorter than death. Having this^feeling they take an intelligent interest in death and!
when they can see it-being given,, avoided, refused:
and accepted in the afternoon for a^nominal price
of admission they pay their money and go to thee
b u l l r i n g 6
Mr, Hemingway turned-away from this deeper study
of the human tragedy to revel in the mere shock and :
suddeness of 'wanton ■killing in The G-reen Hills of Af­
rica (1935) ,
In his stalking of the Greater KudCt* with
which this volume is omainly concerned, one can see:
little significance except the ignoble desire to ae-
6
Ernest Hemingway,.Death in the Afternoon, p..266,
8
quire a taxidermist's horror for the den at home*.
Occa­
sionally^ Hemingway's aim strays, so that-: he takes a? lit­
erary- pot shot at:, Gertrude Stein and others of his? cir­
cle, but for the most part his interest vise fixed'on, thee
spoor of the tedious Kudu.*
The lasttconsidered volume ofrthis author iss titled:
The Fifth Column and .the First Forty-Nine Stories (1938),,
containing not only Hemingway’s first effort at playwriting^ but the mentioned number of his'best short
stories.
In this collection of stories and sketches
one meetSsdeath: in the bullring,,by'the gangster's- gati,
in childbirth, in suicide.
One s t o r y ,especially, is,
notable in sounding the theme of his ;ontire' philosophy.
After the SfOrm tells the simple story of asFloridaa,,conch" who happens upon the recent wreck of aalux­
ury liner. ...In the unexpectedly'/clear and quiet water
after the hurricane he is able to see the wreck distinct­
ly, the drowned?aboard her, :her expensive fittings/*
For
aa hour or two he is pleasantly /tormented by the hopesof salvage of the great wealth of the ship.
But return­
ing to the scene the next morning, the man findssthat thee
Greekssand the sharks and the tide have been at work.
Nothing is left but theebarren hulk of the once luxuriouss
ship;'the valuable fittings have been stripped.from her;
9
the drowned have been devoured, and the fragments*of the
disaster cleaned ;away b y ■/'the tide.
Thus issthee scheme
of life' to Ernest H e m i n g w a y — a remorseless devaluations
of nature, ,which like the flowing of the warm gulf'
stream bears-away all our ~hbpe;, pride, and ambition.
10
CHAPTER II
WAR AND DEATH AND THE HEMINGWAY. LIFE AND LEGEND)
"What aabook," chuckled Gertrude Stein to Sherwood
Anderson, "would he the real story of Hemingway, not
those he writes 'hut the confessions of the real Ernest-,
Hemingway ." 1
That book, unfortunately, will probably-
never he written, for it is just such persons as Miss
Stein and Mr. Anderson, together with a hero-building
reading public and an enterprising publisher, that.-,have,
succeeded in shrouding Hemingway in aalegend as formid­
able as that, which once belonged to Byron.
There are too
many news shots 'of the author pridefully straddling aa
defunct rhinoceros, waving a muleta at a bull, wearing
the uniform of a foreign army; there are too many con­
tradictory anecdotes* and far too many enemiesi
1 Gertrude Stein, "Ernest Hemingway and the Post-War
Decade," Atlantic Monthlyv 152, (August,'1933), p. 200..
|Clinging closely to statistical information, which,
although supplied by Mr, Hemingway's publisher, leaves
little room; for coloring, .one learns t h a t ‘.Ernest Miller;'
Hemingway is avmid-western product of Julyy21,,1898,
His
father was an Oak Park, Illinois, physician who earlyyen­
couraged the young "Hem" to fish and hunt.
On long
hunting trips 'in northern Michigan he was his father’sregular companion.
Here is found the material and back­
ground of In Our Time..stories' which recall t h i s ’youth**
ful period with nostalgic sadness^
One has-reason to suspect thatt,Hemingway was-the
"Hick" in these sketches.
For as Lincoln Steffens says§-
"Like Sinclair Lewis,.like my little boy Pete, he (Hemr
ingway) was forever playing he was what he was writing.
And he was straight, hard-boiled honest too." 2
So ay
good deal of the youth of the author may be-in the char­
acter- of Nick, who hunts? fishes§,and with adolescent in­
tentness -fail s i n and out of love.
Being boyishly sen­
sitive, Nick is deeplyymoved when he accompanies-his
doctor-father on an emergency call during which a make­
shift Caesarian is performed by meanssof a hunting
knife and fishing apparatus.* After'this scene of cas-
p
Lincoln Steffens,’ Autobio&raphy, p. 835*
12
ual. horror^ Wick is stunned, .and "i'n the early/morning o m
the lake sitting in the stern of the boat .with hisafaa
ther rowing, ,he felt quite sure that he would never
die." 3
(frhis realization was to come to Hemingway-later.
Wishing neither to become a- physician as‘hls father
desired* nor as his mother wished, a .cellist>.he ran
away at fifteen.
He returned home to finish high school,;
and after graduation in 1917 he wass of f again, thisetime
to KansaseCity, .where as a cub on the Star he nosed the;:
beaten track of hospital,,morgue, and jail.
However,
asfew months-later he joined an ambulance unit bound for1
the Italian front"]
\
fin Europe he transferred jto the Italian infantry
and his ’war experience came to a swift climaxxin aa
trench mortar explosion.
Ezra Pound tells^aastory/that
the young Hemingway lay for four days as-dead under thee
debris of the trench, which, ,as:;John Peale Bishop re4
marks? is one day longer’underground than Lazarus:;, j
^ Ernest Hemingway., "Indian Camp," The Fifth Column and
the First Forty-Nine Storiess p. 193••
^ John Peale Bishop, "The Missing All," Virginia’Quarter­
ly Review.,13. (January,,1937)» .P» 1 16 .
True or not a s ’
.this one incident may be, .it was probably
at this-time that* the apprehension of death began to ob­
sess the youth*
He came away from the war like Krebsnin Soldier* s
Home.,which is one of the best accounts of the returned
soldier.
Krebs found all communication with his family
impossible.
He sat on the front porch.and saw the girls;
that walked oh the other/ side of the street4.
"He liked
the look of them much better than the French or the
German girls %
But the world they were in was not the -:
world he was -in." 5
The Midwest had never known what it
was to die every day it lived.
It was his^awareness•of death that separated; Hem­
ingway? from the Middle West. The--West had never
known what the war was about..... °
SO Hemingway returned to the Near. Eastland learned
more about war in the post-War reporting of battles. "Iti
w a s ’all a-pleasant business/.
My word yes aamosttpleaa
sant business*" 7 The time the Greeks/broke the fore-
Ernest Hemingway, "Soldier's Home," The Fifth Column
and the First/Forty-Nine Stories, p. 246.
6
John Peale Bishop, o£. c l t ., p. 117.
7 Ernest Hemingway, "On the Quai at Smyrna*’" The Fifth
Column and the First Forty-Nine Sfories* p. 186.
legs~of all their baggage animals and pushed1them into
the water to die,.the things 'that floated in the harbor
after a-massacre at Smyrna*.all these horrors'burned"
themselves into his memory and appear-again and again:
in his writing.
And this'"experience was= teaching him; to
wr3
.....and I thought about Tolstoi and about what as
great advantage; an experience of war was to aawriter
It was one of the major subjects and certainly/one
of the hardest to write truly of and those writers^
who had not seen it-were always very jealous and
tried to make it t,seem unimportant t, or.abnormal, or
a disease as a subject, while, ,really, it was justt
something quite irreplaceable that they had missed.
He wa® by this: time married to Hadley Richardson
and comfortably established in Montparnasse*
Some of his
earliest storiesitHemingway wrote lying in aaroom which
had shelteredlVerlaine in hisalast decrepittand absinthesteepedi yearsa
....•he passed^as newspaper?: correspondent-from line
to line of the Turkish-G-reek War? talked to the
Greek King; heard at the Qua! d ’Orsay what the
French Foreign Office wanted the reporters to hear;
saw in the Ruhr asgood deal that Poincare did not
want him to see. Between times, he drank with the
other”reportersain the bars-of the rue Daunouj^
® Ernest Hemingway, .The G-reen Hills of Africa, p. 70.
9 John Peale Bishop, o£. c l t ., p. 109.
He ranged from Madrid to ’Kansas City, but always he came
back to Paris•
Like hi s.-character Krebs, he perhaps felt himself an
alien in his own land.
He rubbed elbows with the "voices"
of the "lost generation," that band of literary young
people,.who,languishing on the hassocks of Gertrude
Stein’s salon,.expressed the dissatisfactions of post­
war youth.
He passed his time among expatriates and his
stories are crowded with these people
rootless, rest­
less^
Gertrude Stein at that time was Hemingway's good
fairy, and besides godmothering his child (which caused
her later to rue the impermanence of artistic friend­
ships) made a ••lasting impression on his style and point
of view.
Ezra Pound helped get his first book publish­
ed and gave himrhis eccentric, erudite advice .. Stein:
wrote of the youth long after the Stein-Hemingway feud
was old literary history:
I remember very well the impression I had of
Hemingway that first afternoon. He was an extra­
ordinarily good-looking young man, ;twenty-three
years old. It was not long after that everybody
was twenty-six--.. ... .So Hemingway was twenty-three,
rather foreign-looking, with passionately inter­
ested, rather than interesting eyes. He sat in
front of Gertrude Stein and listened and looked. .
]'0 Gertrude Stein, op. o i t ., ,p. .200.
16
He looked farther than the Stein drawing room too.
r"
jHis repertorial sense, always°acute, enabled him to
transcribe the lives of his Montparnasse friends into
the best-seller, ,The Sun Also Rises.
Hemingway attaches himself to ascertain crowd,
watches them for months,.long and greedily and
accurately, sucks all the fiction out of them, and,
with his eyes full of what-they have done., and his
earssringing with what they have said, goes =q 6S
somewhere alone and writes them down,
Sisley Huddleston maintains-that he could name every
character in The Sun Also Rises■»
111 am the Jew of "Hem­
ingway ’s-book," one man told Huddleston.
who knows.it.
man.
"I don't mind
At least I am made to knock out the other
He was a poor fish."
Huddleston adds remorsefully!
"The other heroes of the adventure disappeared from
Paris.
I saw one of them later-— a dismal figure,, sunk
to still lower depths of "degradation, .and I was saddesl’
-*
ed." 12j
Hemingway was looking too at this time for brutal
effects*
Prize fights gave him those primitive physi­
cal sensations that he meant to turn into literature.
H
Robert Llttell, "Notesson Hemingway," New?Republics.
51, (August 10, 1927),, P. 304.
12 Sisley Huddleston, Paris Salons. Cafds,,Studios;,p. 123*
17
He did some boxing himself, and while an interest in this
sport can hardly be thought of as morbid, it shows thatt.
his enthusiasms tended toward violent action.
"Walking-
along the street with h i m , :he would go boxing in the air,
fishing, bull-baiting
:all the motions^;
In Paris, where
they approve all eccentricities, .nobody noticed except to
smile with this bigf handsome boy, squaring off to phan-
I PresentlyvErnest Hemingway was tfirbe found in Spain,,
seeking to learn from: the toreros how a man confronts
death on the warm sands with skill and.beauty and dis­
cipline.
"For in the corrida -he saw his own apprehen­
sion reduced to a ritual, publicly performed,.more vio­
lent than any ritual of the Church, and more immediate, .
since it was concerned only with the body,,its courage
and control." ^
Ittwas because of their tragic sense of
life that, bullfighters- were vitally alive to Hemingway.
In The SUn Also ::Rises he plays his other characters--Americans, Jews, ,,titled Englishmen of the contemporary,
world against a boyish Spanish bullfighter.
Nothing
that happens to the drunken expatriates is significant;.
^
Lincoln Steffens', o p . .cit., p. 834.
-•-4 John Peale Bi shop ,,op, c i t ., p., 117.
18
aimless, they revolve about the serious^young 'Spaniard
like unhappy puppets*
Romero, ,alone, tkno w s■'avreason for v.
existence, for with each suerteehe flings"his cape into
’
In the bull ring Hemingway watched for death with
the cool analysis of the scientist.
When he stood up, ,his fa,ce white and dirty and
the silk of his breeches;;opened from waist to knee,
it was the dirtiness of the rented breeches,,thee
dirtiness of his slit underwear and the clean, clean,
unbearable whiteness of the thigh bone that^I had
seen, and it was that which was important. 5
Often this preoccupation with death amounted to lit­
tle more than aamorbid interest-in the mechanics of
ing.
dy­
Hemingway developed a sardonic humor which gave him--
the least callous of men
a reputation of hardness* asr
is demonstrated in his explanation of the use of horsesn
in the corrida;?
' The comic -that happens to these horses -is not
their deaths then; death is not comiceand gives-a?
temporary dignity to the most comic characters, al­
though that dignity 'passes once death has occurred;
, but the strange and burlesque visceral accidents
which occur.
Or again in The Green Hills of Africa;.
ErnesttHemingway, Death iir the Afternoon, p. 20.
16 Ibid.. p. 7.
19
The pirmaole of hyenic humor, was the hyena,-,
the classic hyena^, that hit too far hack while
running,- would circle-madly, snapping and tearing
at himself until he pulled his own intestines out,
and then stood there, jerking them out and eating
them with relish. 17
This is asgreat change from the sensitive Nick of:
in Our Time, the boy who was shocked by the brutal ex?
igenciesaof the practice of medicine.
oped in Ernest Hemingway
There has devel­
the result of war and re­
lated experiences-— an interest‘in death so absorbing
that the author is compelled to examine every aspect of
the subject,,even to the grimly ludicrous*
His books are progressively hard-boiled’. In ear­
lier works tiis heart was: always-;there, ,aaconcealed
card up his sleeve, but in the later works he seems-'
to have lost that card in the shuffle. 1°
The ordinary, mid-Western youth has developed! into aa
man who iseffahkly fascinated by killing, who is attract
ed to the corrida, the battlefield, the safari, that he
may look upon.the blood of the one "unescapableerea M t y •"•19
■■*■7 Ernest Hemingway, The G-reen Hills of African p. 37*
18
John Peale Bishop, "Homage to Hemingway," N e w .Repub­
lic. 89, (November 11, 1936), p..40.
■*•9 Ernest Hemingway, ,Death in. the Afternoon, p. 266.
fThis concept of death*has-not come about because
Ernest Hemingway hassbeen broken by his war experiences,
nor because of'anyvanomalous element in his .personality•
Rather it is the reaction of a sensitive man to the
chaossof the War which destroyed every preconceived atti­
tude toward death.
In the work of this author is found
the fumbling effort to restore; meaning to that which
had become supremely meaningless
a search for the true
perspective on the spectacle ofi'human destruction, j
That Hemingway has looked too long and intently;at
his subject must be admitted, until life in his philoso­
phy becomes^a mere process of death.
Hisnwork is .strick­
en with the paralysis of f as gout de suicide which has;’de­
veloped progressively,,growing from the defeatism of The
Sun Also Risessto the fatalistic slaughter of To Have and
Have N o t .
This last book, oddly enough, was written
within the peaceful borders of the United States.
For since. 1930 Hemingway,,divorced from hiSBfirsti
wife and married to Pauline Pfeiffer, has resided in
Key West, Florida*- living in a thick-walled Spanish
house,,its-garden somewhat incongruously/ inhabited byy
peacocks.
Tail, heavily-built,,and dark-skinned, he i s '
still a -bullfight aficionado.
A l w a y s a n athlete with, an
21
enthusiasm fbr big-ga»e fishing,.hunting,,and tennis,,
he occasionally /proves to the world that he is fit by
taking a ?punch at a-fallow member of the literati» 20
The outbreak of the Spanish War touched offfa^hid­
den spark of social-consciousness in Ernest Hemingway
and enlisted him violently on the Loyalist side.
He
managed to raise a considerable sum to buy ambulances
and departed in the company of John DosnPassos to Madrid.
Though still less pro-proletarian than pro-underdog, hisr
awakened political consciousness will doubtlessly broad­
en his work*
Now Ernest Hemingway is in his forties, a period
which can be the richest in the life of asnovelist.
Long
returned from exile, he survives as an individual,,not as;
a member of a-fellowship >of post-War youth.
of his generation have scattered
The; writers"
some lost by suicide-
like Hart Crane and Harry Crosby, some smothered!in the;
PO
Gertrude Stein in her autobiography said that .Hemingway;
lacked courage and was a poor boxer for all his talk of>
it. Three assorted members offthe literati during the
time since Miss Stein's autobiography, ,have believed
Miss Stein and picked fights with Hemingway with disas?trous results to themselves. The last of the trio, a:
bad poet but a-big man physically, ,fought Hemingway in;
Key West last winter and afterward was confined to his
room for five days with a-day and night nurse. Harry
Sylvester, "Ernest Hemingway: A'Note," Commonweal* .25.
(October 30,,1936),,p. \2.
22
mills iof Hearst and Curtis, but most ;,live on to attack
new problems and respond to new situations.
But whatso­
ever development may occur in the literary career of
Ernest Hemingway, it is doubtful that the will ever shakes
off entirely the mood of death that'pervades hisswork.
Fb'r the marks of death have gone too deep in. this man
ever to be lightly erased”.
23.
CHAPTER III '
WAR AND DEATH AND THE MOOD OF THE TIMES-
; "Youuare all a-lost generation,11 said Gertrude Stein
to the twenty year olds gathered at her feet and they be­
lieved her.
For the wounds from the first World War
were not all received in the Argonne ; there were thoseyoung people who felt the deeper wounds?of moral and
spiritual disintegration that, followed the greattdehaele..
To thisspost-War youth, .restless, dissatisfiedj.disil­
lusioned, Ernest IHemingway came as the spokesman^
In searching for the meaning of. hiss own experience,
Hemingway had found the moral history ofrthe timeses?*
pecially that of "the 19201s-*
The culture that had! been
inculeatbd in these young people had c;ollapsed.
tional values?-had: become hollow.
Tradi­
And the grand words— -
■*" Ernest Hemingway,, The Sun Also Rises, prefatoryvqho
tat ion-.
24
fo’r- which men were supposed to sacrifice their lives1 in*
i
the mud of Flanders*— had lost their meaning entirelyjJ
I was always embarrassed by the words b sacred,
glorious, and sacrifice and the expression! i m vain:* .
We had heard them, sometimes?-standing ini the raini
almost out of earshot,,so that only the shouted'
words came through, and had read them,,on procla«
mat ions? that; were slapped up iby billposters over
other proclamations,,now for aalong time,,and I
had seen nothing sacred* .and the things•that wereglorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like
the -stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with
the meat except to bury i t ..... Abstract words such
as glory, .honor, courage, or hallow were obscene be­
side the concrete names of villages, the numbers?of
roads*- the names-of rivers, the numbers?of regi­
ments, ;and the dates* 2
PThese words had become deceivers?to the new general
tion that had grown up at the end of the War.
And the?
collapse of the vocabulary;?revealed) the inadequacy of the
culture itself.
Traditional values, morals^3and re­
ligions ?were sent by the board*
Bereft of these,.those
under thirty looked about' frantically for something on
which to pin their beliefs~*~)
Yet in spite of its =achievements? the Lost*. Gen­
eration still merited thecadjective that Gertrude
Stein applied to i t . The reasons are not hard to
find. It was <Lost, first of all, because it was up­
rooted, .schooled away, almost?wrenched away, from
itsBabtaehment to any region or tradition. It was
lost because itsstraining had prepared it for- anoth­
er world than existed after’the War (and the War pre­
2
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to A r m s p. .196.
25
pared it for nothing) • It was lost because it chose:
to live in exile. It was"lost because it had no
trustworthy guides* and had formed for itself only
the vaguest picture of society and the writer's
place in it. The generation belonged to a"period
of confused transition from values already fixed-.to
values that had to be created. 3
Previous "lost" generations---for other generations
have fallen more or less in love with the idea of lostness-<— had found escape in philosophies of nihilism, sui­
cide, aestheticism.
Thb Sorrows? of Werther. The Picture
of Dorian G-ray clarified the dissatisfactions of their
generations"and enlarged upon the methods -found for eluding the bewilderment. . In their turn, the heroes of
Ernest Hemingway reflect the formula that the post-War
decade found to escape i t s ’difficulties.
It was a return to primal ideas about!life,,a re­
turn to simplicity, ,to objectivity, and infused through
it all was the cynicism of Ecclesiastes---"The sun also
ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place
where he arose."
There was disillusion about things3
as they were,,and distrust of things:as they might
\J ahe
The Sdn Also Rises * who masquerades under
the Hemingway present indicative,.is one of these.
Ex-
3 Malcolm Cowley, Exile1s-Return, p. 11.
^ Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises. prefatory quo­
tation.
l
[patriate, war-veteran, ,he drifts from "bar to bar in an
unthinking haze.. His satisfactions are elementary and
direct: fishing,,good liquor, hunting,,and always the
corrida de toros.
He dwells on no emotion,.shies-from;
introspective thought, and his attitude towards his warcreated impotence-— which to Hemingway would be much more
terrible than death
is one of stoic resignation:.
When Jake and his crowd happen down into Spain for
the fiesta season, the difference between them and the;
Spaniards-is marked.
The latter race has a way of life
that transcends the narrow pattern of Jake's-crowd.
Un­
touched by the War, Romero, .the young bullfighter, re­
tains a strict sense of honor, of duty,,of the fitness of
things
all incomprehensible to the decadent visitors.
And as much as he admires the Spaniards,,Jake knows^
that these people and this life are not for him.
It makes
him feel uneasy and he returns to France:
Everything is on such a clear financial .basis in
Fhance. It is the simplest country to live in. No
one makes things complicated by becoming your friend
for any obscure reason.. If you want people to like
you tyouohave only to spend a little money
It was a-distrust of all emotion, ,all sentimental ex-
5 Ifrid.. p. .243
27
crescences that marked Jake and his crowd, and if the
"books of Hemingway are in true focus, ,of argood share of
the post-War generation,I
Hemingway is the modern primitive, who makes ase fresh
a ‘start with the emotions as hisrforefathers did
with the soil. He is the frontiersman of the loins,
heart, and "bleeps'* the stoic Red Indian minus tra­
ditions, scornful of the past, ."bare of sentimen­
tality, catching the muscular liffe in a-plain and
and muscular prose. He is the hero who distrusts;?
heroism:; he isrthe prophet of those who are with­
out faith, 6
Politics was another of the "betrayers of the gener­
ation.
The effort of these young people was to "become aa
non-political animal, "an individualist, contemning all
creeds,' individualism included." 7
The retreat upon the
primal emotions had made themrabandon:all efforts to save
the world.
They smiled at reform::and gave a bitter shrug
to revolution.
In The Revolution!st-Hemingway draws: a
picture of an idealistic reformer with all the cynical
toleration of an oid and worldly-wise parent.:
"But how is the movement going in Italy?" he
asked".
. "Very badly," I said;.
6 Clifton Fadiman;,"Hemingway,,Ah:American: Byron," Nation.,
136f} (January 18, 1933), ,p. 64.
7 Lq c q
cit>
•28
"But it twill go better," he said. "You have
everything here. It is the one country that every
one is sure of. It will be the starting point of
,.everything."
o
I did not say anything
But at the very end of the sketch the narrator adds sad­
ly and significantly: "The last I heard of him the S%iss
had him in jail near Sion." 9
Having forsworn class and national roots* ,the Hem­
ingway hero is at home in all countries.
He is the ex­
patriate Jake, who manages to earn enough by being as
foreign correspondent for an American newspaper- to keep
away froarr America indefinitely*
He ranges from Paris to
Madrid,, but it is in Paris, in the international milieu
of his own kind, that he feels most at home.
There in
the company of sportsmen, athletes, .killers;* he is fully/
insulated from the main current of the life of the
times*
His world i s "&apeculiarly timeless world which
swirls--in its ^-crowded SSrgasso, neither-hoping nor de-s
siring to be anything other than it is«
It is /.understandable how Ernest Hemingway, ,born att
the right time and embodying the confused ideals and
mute longings c'of this generation, should be reared to al-
Q
Ernest Hemingway, "The Revolutionist," The Fifth Col­
umn and the First Forty-Nine Stories, pp. .255-6.
9 Ibid.. p. .256.
29
most‘Byronic heights as its spokesman.
who lived over a hundred
-turesque.
For like the poet
years ago he made lostness pic-
10And he succeeded in
doing this by his
romantic death complex, which, cultivated to the point of
fetishism, underlies all of his work.
For youth will find an outlet for its enthusiasms,
even though it is a saddened and cynical youth.
With their
eyes avoiding the horror of the past, and not caring to
look into the future, the post-Y/ar young people laughed off
their lostness with sportive morbidity.
Forsaking the vo­
cabulary of their elders, they romanticized the language
of disillusion.
sex.
They cultivated the outr§ aspects of
They looked for the bizarre, and always they sought:
those primary
sensations that gave them-the sense of
death and the
end of all things in the sham spectacle of
-— \
the world.
1
10 Byron is a product of the post-Napoleonic period., His
defiant romanticism focuses the turmoil, the disillusion,
and the bitterness which flooded Europe after her first
great imperialist civii war. Hemingway is no less
clearly a product of the second breakdown, and the hard,
tense quality of his romanticism marks the difference
in spiritual tone between 1825 and 1925. But the two
are typically post-war men, typical of a period of vio­
lent, shifting values.... .Byron, .writhing under the
spell of the Judeo-Christian myth, prefers to think
himself "damned," whereas:the Manfred pose is impossi­
ble to the more sophisticated Hemingway. But at the
heart of both lies a tragic sense of defeat, vitalized
by a burning rebellion.
Clifton Fadiman, 0£. cit.,
p . 64.
30
Bullfighting became for Hemingway and many of his ad­
herents ’a symbol of their lives and philosophy:
Killing cleanly and in a way which gives you aes­
thetic pleasure and pride has always been one of
the.greatest enjoyments of a part of the .human
race
Once you accept the rule of death thou.;
shalt not kill is an easily and naturally obedient
commandment. But when a man is still in rebellion
against death he has pleasure in taking to himself one
of the Godlike attributes; that of giving it. H
Bullfighting is not a sport, as-Hemingway explains, but1,
a tragedy, which is played "more or less well by the bull
and the man involved and in which there is danger for the
man but certain death for the animal."
The matador is:
under the danger of death in only that proportion that vhe
wishes, but he should increase this danger within the
rules provided for his protection.
The function of the
matador is as an artist, a-’sculptor who must dominate the
bull with his-muleta, creating clean-cut harmonies between*
himself and the animal.
In the drama that is thus, played
on the afternoon sand the artist-matador becomes incar­
nate Death, for in the end he must unite himself to the
bull with the sword in a last climactic embrace.
In this romantic conception of the pastime, ,the
^ Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon.,pp. 232-3.
12
Ibid.. p. 16.
31
corridaabecomes the ritual of life* Death achieves an ex­
aggerated splendor toward which all life seems to be cornverging*
Each successive veronica, each suerte builds on­
ly toward the fatal ending.
The consciousness of death
is inherent in every move that takes place on the sun-’~'drenched sands,^ and in its larger significance
in life.
The only thing that is 'to be desired is that the game
will be well-played with skill and bravery*
all that matters
For that is
the discipline of the game*
This, of course, is romanticism pure and simple, and
as such has been heartily debunked from several sides.
Max^Eastman calls it "a literary style of wearing false
hair on the chest," for in a*sudden fit of psycho-anal­
ysis she sees this lust for killing as a result of an in­
adequacy that makes it necessaryrto put forth the tokens^
of red-blooded masculinity* ^
While Mr. Eastman’s1
reason for casting doubt on the Hemingway virility isr;un­
doubtedly due to personal prejudice, there is much truth
in what he avers.
This dramatized and exaggerated emphaa
sisngiven to the death concept is in great part founded
on the^insecurity of its advocates;*
|"The most tragic thing about the War was not that it
made so many dead men, but that it destroyed the tragedy
3-3 Max:'Eastman, "Bull in the Afternoon," New Republic.
75, (June 7,,1933), p. 96.
32
of death," says John Peale B i s h o p . 1^
When death became
an everyday commonplace it lost its significance.
It .
"became too much a matter of caprice,’ a matter of the
slaughter-house to retain any of its former meaning for
The first thing that you found about the dead
was that, hit badly enough, they died like animals*
Some quickly from a little wound #ou would not think
would kill a rabbit* They died from little woundsr;
as rabbits die sometimes from three or four small
grains of shot that hardly >seemed to break the skin.
Others would die like cats, a skull broken in and
iron in the brain, they lie alive two days like
cats that? crawl into the coal bin with a bullet in
the brain and will not die until you cut their
heads off. Maybe cats do not die then, they say
they have nine lives,,I do not know, but most men
die like animals, .not men. 15
^Traditional attitudes toward death would be destroyed by
i
scenes of carnage; the value attached to human life would
be changed by experiences on the battlefield.
There would
develop an insecurity in the whole emotional at/titude to­
ward death*
It was no wonder that sensitive young men
like Ernest Hemingway should become obsessed with the
idea of human destruction^
In the bullring was to be found a^pitiable enough
^
John Peale Bishop, "The Missing All," Virginia-Quarter­
ly Review. 13, (January, 1937), P* 117*
^
Ernest Hemingway,"A Natural History of the Dead," The
Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, p. 542.
53
effort to invest death with something of its former dig­
nity in the minds of men.
In its flamboyant trappings?*
its enthusiasms, in its colorful language, the corridas
seized the imagination of these unstable young people,
for it dramatized that which had become for many of them
only the meaningless-slaughter of the packing house.
work of Ernest Hemingway amounts "'to nothing
more, it will stand historically as a commentary on a
large segment of post-War youth.
He writes at the time
of the collapse of asculture, at least when that culture
could have no vitalizing influence on the minds of the
young.
In the disillusion,.in the insecurity of his pages?
is .found the complaint of a generation that had been be­
trayed.
And in his death obsession is found the effort
of youth to attach some importance to that which had become supremely unimportant
And that, I believe, was -the final effect on us;
of the War; that was -the honest emotion*behind a?pretentious phrase like "the lost generation." School
and college had uprooted us in spirit; now we were
physically uprooted, hundreds: of us, millions,,pluck­
ed from our own soil as if by a clamshell bucket and
dumped, scattered! among strange people. All our roots:
were dead now, even the Anglo-Saxon tradition of our
literary ancestors, even the habits of slow thrift
that characterized our social class'. We were fed,
lodged, clothed by strangers, commanded by stt’angers,
infected with the poison of .irresponsibility
the
poison of travel,too, for we had learned that prob­
lems could be left behind us ’
.merely by moving- else­
where
and the poison of danger, excitement, -that
made our old life seem intolerable. Then,as -.sudden-
34
ly as it began for us, the War ended.
When we first heard of the Armistice, we felt a
sense of relief too deep to express, and we all got
drunk. We had come through, we were still alive, and
nobody at all would be killed tomorrow.....On the
next day, .after we got over our hangovers, we didn’t
know what to do,,so we got drunk.
But the Forties'1are no longer the Twenties, and the
’’lost” generation is now a thing of the past.
Those that-?
were drowned5in the ginny fumesrof the Select or Zelli* s
are now forgotten; those that have survived have lived to
beeome the butchers? the housewives, and the literary
successes of the day.
Ernest Hemingway, as one of the
survivors, has been left with a literary pattern and as.
philosophy which he must adjust to meet the vastly dif­
ferent problems of the Forties if he is to continue as a :?
serious author.
Such an adjustment is attempted in To, Have and Have
Not. Hemingway’s only major novel with an American locale.
In it the author attacks the centhal issues of the time-the distribution of wealth and the relation of the indi­
vidual to the mass*
That he fails to make himself clear
is undoubtedly, owing to the limitation of his literary
experience to the subworld of war and violence.
He is not
able to forget the viewpoint of his generation
the as-
Malcolm Cowley, op. ,c i t ., pp. 55-56.
35
pect of all life as a^process of disintegration and
death.
Harry Morgan, whom we must accept a s ’representative
o f ’individualism pitted against organized society , has about as many virtues as his piratical namesake.
He is
a H e y West "Conch’' who runs rum,,guns, .Chinamen, .and
finally bank-robbers~in a futile effort to keep his fam­
ily from starvation and his wife fromrplying her former
profession.
Harry's moral sense, ,never much in evidence,
is gradually destroyed entirelyyas-he is forced to
successively 'uglier acts in. order to make a living.
The
climax-comes when he contractssto transport a?band of
Cuban revolutionaries
their Utopian schemes'.
to save his own skin.
who rob a bank to raise funds for
and is forced to murder them all
Barry gets his, of course,.and his
dying incoherency is =a commentary on all rugged individu­
al! sts t
"A man," Harry Morgan said,,looking attthem
both. One man alone alir't got. No man alone now."
He stopped.
"No matter how a'man alone ain't got no
b l o o d y ________ chance."
He shut his eyesi It had taken him a -long time
to get tit out and it had taken him all of his life
to learn i t . 17
Interspersed throughouttthe Morgan saga are vignettes^
17
1 Ernest Hemingway, To_ Have and Have Not, p. 225.
36
of'the other end of the economic scale
the "Haves.." In
the yacht basin of Key West loll the rich cheats, degen­
erates, drunken grain-merehants, and Hollywood nymphoma­
niacs*
Here is a disintegration of values, although it
is clothed in silk and listens to Bach,,that is as terri­
ble- as that of Harry Morgan.
Thus,,on the other side of the barricades, weediscover people behaving as Harry Morgan has sometimesbehaved
and where is your better world?
The lives of the "Haves" in the viewpoint of Ernest
Hemingway, are as demoralizing as those of the "Have Nots;"
the career of the government brain-truster is as- shabby
as that of Bee-Lips,.the mouthpiece; the rich Dorothy
Hollis is no better than Marie, the ex-harlot.
There is
neither virtue nor morality i m playing the game of organ­
ized society, nor in the lone role of the individualist,
nor in the idealistic hopes of the revolutionaryi
tion is an irony.
Morality is a:-sham.
are the tangible ones
Aspirae
The only virtues
ability at sports, sexual stam­
ina j- and the knack of holding your liquor
all else is
but disappointment and disillusion. .
Of all the characters that bob upoin the welter of To
Harold E. Stearns,.America Now, p. 42.
37
Have and Have Not Professor MaeWalsey is the only one
who seems to have the Hemingway secret.
The professor,
whose wife died in 1918--— one of the most poignant years:'
of'’disillusion
spends his-time regarding the passing
s h o w ‘through the eyes of the mild inebriate.
He is
neither moved nor amazed at the turn taken in world
eventsj he is content in the fatalistic flow of things^.
When a man hits the professor in the face he does-nothing
more than to reach for another beer.
He is the mustached,
He is the stoic.
scholarly reincarnation of Miss
Stein’s "lost" generation, ,those d e p a r t e d >young people
who^discovered that life is h u t aashort prelude to death,,
the melody of whieh is often a dreary one.
There is a great deal of Ernest Hemingway behind the
MaeWalsey spectacles and all of his philosophy.
And this -
outlook on life has not altered in its basic principles
since the days of the post-war decade; it is there in To
Have and Have Not as unmistakably as it is in T h e ,Sun A l ­
so R i s e s .
No matter whether the scene shifts‘from post­
war Montparnassesto present-day Florida, Hemingway is
governed .by the attitudes and ideas of the generation
for which he was the spokesman.
Ih I s is a philosophy in which death adumbrates .the
world like a shadow of the last World War,,paralyzing
human activity with the disease of extreme fatalism.
It
38
is a-iremoval from the main currents of existence,
aare-
treat to the safe satisfactions to be found on the level
of the primary senses.
It is the distrust of all senti­
ments,,, all idealized conceptions that have motivated’men
in past ages to formulate religions, to establish empires,,
and to cut one a n o ther’s throats.
In short,,it is the
negativism' of those post-^War young people whom Miss Stein
gathered fondly to her bosom and called "lost."
It was
the generation of 'Ernest Hemingway;-and by becoming its
spokesman he has made a valuable contribution to the his­
tory of the times.
But it is this mood of the "lost"
generation that he must cast off if he is ever to escape
from the narrow genre which is now beginning to restrict
him.
39
CHAPTER IV
WAR AND DEATH AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
"There is honor among pickpockets and honor among
whores, it Is simply that- the standards differ."
And
in the morality■of'Ernest Hemingway it is this honor thatc/
chiefly matters, be it the honor of a-gangster, ,a prize-­
fighter,-a drunk, or an author.
One must conduct himself with honor,,one must playy
the game with courage, skill,.and discipline,.or one fails
wholly and miserably as an individual.
To succeed in this
places one among the blessed company of Lieutenant Henry,
Harry Morgan, and the Greater Kudu; to fail is to be one
with the despised Cohn and the Hyena who yelps when he is
shot •
For In the disintegrating world of Ernest Hemingway,
there is little of virtue besides the rules of the game,
the discipline of the craft
that which John Peale Bishop
Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon. ;p. .92.
40
calls the "sense of the metier." 2
It is this sense that!
keepssthe old bullfighter of The Undefeated'on his feet!
after he hasrbeen gored; the pride that enables"himrto re­
sist the efforts-of his friends-to cut off his pigtail
and consequentlyvhis career as -a torero when he is stretch­
ed upon the operating table.
It isrthe code of sports­
manship in its:;.largest sense.
There issa definite code by which characters are
judged.and by which they judge each other and which
often provides-the basisr-of the conversation. It isc
important to recognize that the code is relevant, and
only relevant, .to a ^special period of time and .ae
special region of society. Courage, honesty,.and
skill are important rules of'the code, but it is?
these human attributes as determined by a-special
historical context. 5
jTo be admirable from the standpoint of this morality
is to admit defeat, ,to accept pain without an outcry,.to
hate sham, and to adhere to the rulescof the game.
To be
despicable is to violate any of these rules.
Robert Cohn of The Sun Also Rises'-is an inveterate
violator of the code, and as. suchhreceives -the expressed:1
hatred of every character in the book.
He discusses-hisr
emotions at great length, does not admit defeat in love,
knocks a man down and then cries;about it* and when he
2 John Peale Bishop, "Homage to Hemingway," N e w -Republic,
89, (November 11, 1936), .p. 42.
^ Delmore--Schwartz, ,"Ernest Hemingway's Literary Situa­
tion," Southern Review. 3 no. 4, (1938), p. 771. '
41
is hurt he lets neveryone know.
Brett? who is the author
of much of Cohn’s distress-— he h a p p e n e d t o take^an epi­
sode with this charming hoyden seriously— -acts paradox­
ically within the code.
Although she goesr-to "bed with
nearly every male in the volume,, she does-so in ajspirit
of brusque camaraderie;;although she drinks herself under
several tables,- she does so with British calm, and as a-j
final sporting act, she gives up Romero, the young bull­
fighter because she is ’’not going to be one of these
bitches that ruin children." 4
"You know it makes one feel rather good de­
ciding not to be a -bitch."
"Yes."
"it's sort of what we have instead of God." 5
Clearly this is not the ethics-of the larger spheresc
of life. ^
xt is the morality of wartime. \ Hemingway’s?
^ Ernest Hemingway, The Stin Also Rises, p. .254.
5 Ibid.. p. 256.
fi
The morality of Hemingway is a limited one
it needs a
special background. It Is a morality for wartime,.drink­
ing, expatriates,’ and sports. Other levels off'existence
it does not touch. Consider, for example, how irrelevantthe morality would be when the subject matter was family
life. The style, ;as has just been shown, is likewise
focused upon certain key situations and contexts, and rel­
ative to them, and inseparable from them. This defines
Hemingway's limitations as a writer and it indicates that
some transformation would be necessary before he could
deal with class structure of society directly. Delmore
Schwartz? o p . c i t ., p.
42
morals,,like his emotions;•,have been reduced to their
lowest common denominator:
So far, about morals,.1 know only that what isr
moral is what you feel good after and what is immor­
al is what you feel bad after..... 7
This is the simplified ethics of the person whom priva­
tion has forced to retreat to primitive conceptions.
Dis­
regarded entirely are the social implicationst-that an act
in question might have, for the pressure of War made Hem­
ingway’s generation forget about social consequences.
What possible consideration could be owed to a society
which had been a betrayer?
In the imminence of danger there
was a satisfying heightening of the sense of self,, a-slip­
ping away of'old restraints and inhibitions; in such a
time a man learned to live for his own satisfactions:-;
alone, guided by aanative sense of decency.
j~Thus, the lovely Brett may dally wherever the f&ney ■
strikes her, providing she is-not left with a .feeling of:'
disgust’.
She is ^responsible neither to mother nor to
society; her duties to the pastt haveebeen abolished by.
the War.
Her responsibility 'to herselffis simply that
she must never fe'el like a^Mbitch.”
Because war and violence produced in Ernest"Heming­
way and his generation their morality,^scenes .of war and
7 Ernest Hemingway,.Death in the Afternoon, p. 4.
43
violence are necessary to Hemingway’s works if his char­
acters are to behave within this-code of ethics*
Death
often becomes a^method of revealing^character; under the
pressure of disaster people disclose-their capacity
either to play or to fail at the game.
The best way, however, in whichtone's character is
tested is in the face of death.
It is, I think, this
concern with conduct"which directs Hemingway*s plotsto violent situations so often. 8
As the aspirant matador will either stand his ground or
retreat at the first charge of the bull, so do Heming­
w a y ’s characters r e v e a 1 their natures in the imminence of
death.
Francis Maeomber in his Short Happy Life goes on a
safari to shoot a lion,,and'when confronted suddenly by aa
beast of that species,
simply bolts.
terror has a significant effect.
This display of
Maeomber’s wife refhses
to have anything further to do with him^ and acutely
drives home this point by giving her favors to the guide.
The gun bearers treat him with contempt; the native boysc
laugh behind his back.
Tortured by this obloquy, Maeomber
becomes reckless-^and goes after afebuffalo.
AP the charge
of this animal he stands his ground and his wife rewards;his new-found bravery by neatly yshooting him in the head.
O
Delmore Schwartz, o p . c l t ., p.773.
44
Nevertheless,:this is worth the price of his life to Fran­
cis Maeomber because in this last act of valor he wins?the
respect of his friends and his author, for in the viewpoint
of Ernest Hemingway he has attiast "come of age," ^
Again) in A Farewell to Arms
Lieutenant Henry calmly
shoots a man who, in the panic of a retreat, is impelled
to run rather than remain and dig out a amired ambulance.
By displaying an inclination to run the unfortunate sol­
dier reveals hissutter inadequacy as a human being, a.
failure to whom? no consideration*is owing.
So -the c o n r
science of the Lieutenant is quite untroubled*
This is aaharsh code, ,a-code which is’-restricted*, to
situationspin which there is the element of death.
Big
game hunting fits-into this scheme, for as was observed
in Francis Maeomber, the -anxieties of the hunt strip
j
away all superfluities from human behavior and reveal
character in its intrinsic Hemingway values.
Most sports?
fail in line with thispcode too, for as A.G, Ogden has ob­
served, the notion that modern sports are amusements is
absurd,
"Genuine recreations are one thing and involve no
contest1, but most games are actually among the most search-
9 Ernest Hemingway, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Mae­
omber," The Fifth Golumn and the First Forty-Nine Sto­
ries, p • 131,
45
ing forms of existence .11 ^
Boxing, hunting,.big -game
fishing reflect the ethics of the larger area of wartime,
for in the hagards of these sports is found something of
the moral pattern of the Hemingway world.
And then, of
course,}there is always the corrida? which symbolicallyv
reproduces the environment to which the War-generation •.
had become accustomed.
’’The only place where you could
see life and death now that the wars were over, was ini
the bull ring and I wanted very much to go to Spain where
I could study it." ^
For there is found all the elements
present in the more awful theater of war.
1P
Thus is this code of behavior limited to a special
sphere of plaee and time •
It belongs to the little sub­
world of Ernest Hemingway
to the area that lies always
in the shadow of sudden death.
Apart from the main cur­
rents of social events, it is peopled by the matadors, the
gangsters, the athletes who revolve in a highly-charged
present, without past and without much future.
^
Delmore Schwartz, o p « c i t ., p..772..
^ Ernest Hemingway,. Death in the Afternoon, p. 2.
12
This interest in sport may be founded on our modern
assumption that when the mind and social ideals: abdicate
(as they did in the war), the body 7must take charge; at
any rate,, existence has become for Hemingway a mere con­
test, bitter and trenchant. Harry Hartwick, The Fore­
ground of American Fiction,;p . .155.
'
46
Characters in Hemingway'w works are not only drawn
from a single stratum of society, but are curiously of
one piece, of the same ideas, morals,, and philosophy.
Ex­
perience in war and violence has leveled away/singular
characteristics,' ,so that all become of one fundamental
pattern.
Because Hemingway distrusts'-direct description,
his characters do not even possess the distinguishing
marks of physical difference.
Because the author refuses1
to go "inside" a character*s mind and account for his
actions,,his people a c t :with the unexplained behaviorism
of automata. . Without will, they are driven by the com­
pulsion of fate and circumstance, drawing up their ethics
in the vacuumi of their own experience.
This sameness of outlook and ideaextends its?re­
quirements into the fields of manners and mien, and one*
must speak in clipped phrases, avoid pretentiousssenti­
ments,and wear an air of surpriseless calm.
To betray an
emotion is .-to betray one's manhood and integrity.
Whether
the tarpon runs away with the tackle or whether one is
shot in the viscera,/,the correct reaction is the sportsman’s
expletive, the "damn" or "hell" or worse, ,and nothing more.
Old Marie, the wife of"Harry Morgan, is bound by the code
when she is led in to see the bullet-riddled body of her
husband:
47
"Oh Christy" she said, and began to cry again.
"Look at his goddamned face."
And even in the preliminary skirmishes of lovemaking is -the code inviolable.
Here fhankness is the main,
thing, ,and Hemingway heroes are notable for getting to the?
point quickly and effectively:
I walked down the Prado to the cafe where Harry
was waiting and I was so excited feeling all funny in­
side, sort of faint like,.and he stood up when he saw
me coming and he couldn't take his eyes off me and his
voice was thick and funny when he said, "Jesus,’ Marie,
you're beautiful."
And I said, "You like me blonde?"
"Don't talk about it," he said.
"Let's go to
the hotel."
Arid I said, ,"0.K.,,Let's go." I was, twenty-six;
then. 14
Hemingway charactersdo possess nationality and often
take from this association certain group characteristics*
Americans, for example, .receive a?curious> treatment.
To J
!
I
Ernest Hemingway they represent the culture that has be- 1
I
trayed him; they epitomize the morality that led to the
stupid slaughter of his generation.
In his books,,Amer­
icans are usually persons like Cohn,, or Francis Macomber, .
or the creaturesrthat loll on the yachts at Key West.
The only decent persons of this nationality are the rebels
Ernest Hemingway, ,TjO Have and Have Not, p. .25i>.
14 Ibid., p. 259. •
48
like Jake and Henry Morgan, ,men who understand the basic.stupidity of organized society in the United States-and
want to' remove themselves as far from- it as possible,
sa-race, ,the Spanish stand apart, especially the
caste of the bullfighters?.
"In Spain Hemingway discovers?-
the shrine for his cult of violence,"
To him the
Spanish are an unconsciously.'?savage people who retain the
tragic sense of life— -they know that life is just‘some­
thing that comes h e f <3re death and that death is:the only
reality,
Romero of The Sun Also Rises:senses things-the
wise-cracking English:and American sophisticates will
never khow.^jpaco of The Capital of the World'sayso
i
simply/ when he feels:his life blood drain fronr aasevered
■I
femoral artery t "Advise one of the priests^."
To
Hemingwayythese Spaniards are the contrast--— heavily ro­
manticized it may be
to the banality of the everyday
world.
In the narrow code of behavior that "-Ernest cHemingwayy
has set up for his characters, ,there is no room for growth
and development.
A hero is '.as whole 'at the beginning of ~
a= story as at the end.
That which develops is .circum­
Clifton Fadiman, "Ernest Hemingway, an American Byron,"
Nation, 136, (January 18, 1933K P« 64.
1 fi
Ernest Hemingway, "The Capital of the World," The Fifth
Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, p. 148.
49
stance outside the characters.
Harry Morgan, complete at
the opening of To Have and Have Not as at the end, is shut­
tled about by the cyclonic development of events outside of
himsdlf•
In this whirlwind of fate he is thrown back on the -
code, the formulaathat Hemingway has found to guide all the
people in his books.
As :it has been mentioned before, this adherence to arsingle behavdor formula-.narrows down characterization to
a-pattern; Hemingway’s people are as uniform as the maasproduction soldiers of the War.
The matrix of this
pattern emerges as-the hard-fisted, stoical, sensationloving hero-type
fiction.
the thinly disguised moi
in Hemingway
This hero, who often appears in the first person
singular, embodies the experiences of this author and his
generation.
17
This hero makes his appearance in a number of inter­
esting situations, in Africa; in the trenches, in the bull­
ring*
He is Jake of The Sun Also Rises, Harry of The Snows:
of- Kilimanjaro. Lieutenant Henry of A Farewell to Arms, and
Nick of Now I Lay M e .
He is very brave.
He takes keen.
^ Having forsworn both'.his national and class roots, he i s ’
at home in all countries.....He seeks the companionship
and tries to share the experiences of booze-fighters,
killers? athletes? and sportsmen, men who lead careers
of physical sensation, superficially insulated from the
main current of the life of the time.....Above all, .he
looks fora-hero, one who does all this with efficiency
and elegance, one who presents a convincing rationale of
his behavior and transmutes it into the contemporary,
eternity of art. Clifton Fadiman, 0£. c i t .. p. 63.
50
delight in sports and the pleasures of the flesh.
He dis­
trusts -all that is complicated, he it religion, o r -an in­
telligent woman.
His confidence is in good liquor, hisr
own co.1o n e s and his-ability to "take" whatever fate has'
in store for him. . He is the one person whom Ernest 'Hem­
ingway can see clearly,r,for he is the product of the same
circumstances assthis author, a man in whom the thought of!
death has formed his attitude toward life.
There is, to complete the span of Hemingway's works,,
an outline at aadistance of a^morality and a away of life
that, transcends the whole narrow pattern of his works.
There are shadowy figures' on the horizon who are not in
that peculiar flux*of values that is his.
They are the
oriented, ,the integrated people of a larger world.
But when .these figures do come to the foreground,
there is alwayssthe implication that they are dwelling in
aachild's paradise, that they are naive.
But in their
naivete and ignorance .they are whole and integrated!in aa
way Hemingway and his generation,will never be.
Often
these people are Spaniards, more often they are priests1
or nuns.
In A A Farewell to Armss there is ,a?childlike.
priest, w h o ,,although he is despised'by most of the char­
acters for his religion,,is looked up to by^Lieutenant
Henry for possessing aasecretthe can not quitie comprehend.
51
When the priest^invitesrHenry to go to his own happy
country, ,the Lieutenant, ,although he wants to go, somehow?*
is«never ahle to do it, hut goes *instead to:
the-smoke of cafes and nights when the room whirled
and you needed to look at the wall to make it stop,
nights in bed, drunk, when you knew that that was
all there was and the strange excitement of waking
and not knowing who it was with y o u * ....Suddenly to
care very much and to sleep to wake with it some­
times morning and all that hadibeen there gone and
everything sharp and hard and clear and sometimes a
dispute about the cost.
Lieutenant Henry knew well enough to remain in the
world of Ernest Hemingway,,for he could know no. other•
18 Ernest Hemingway,,A Farewell to Arms, p. 13
52
CHAPTER V
WAR AND DEATH AND PLOT DEVELOPMENT
"All stories," Ernest Hemingway remarks in Death in
the Afternoon, "end in death’, ,and he is not a strue story
teller who would keep that from? youv" ^
The love of men
and women,,the creative genius of the artist, the exploits
of hrave men musttall come to eventual dissolution.
The
whole of life---the color, the sound, the spirited thoughts,
and strong emotions
disintegration.
is hut part of a slow process: of
The fatal ending adumbrates t h e ;whole off
life with its shadow, and in the writing of Ernest Heming­
way one senses0death in the very beginning, with the first .
word.
For, as he says', he is not a.-rtrue story teller-who
would keep this knowledge from you.
Plot construction, in the light of such aaphilosophy, has-the fatalistic flow ■of a-river.
1
Events'form
Ernest tHemingway, Death in the Afternoon, p. 122’,
53
themselves casually and unpredictablyy,but always the
drift of the current is'toward dispersion In oceanic
nothingness.
A n effort to breast the current is not only
futile but foolish; it is absurd to tire oneself in
struggling with the inescapable.
The only sensible be­
havior is stoic acceptance of this fundamental scheme of
nature .
His vision of life is one of perpetual anni­
hilation. Since the will can do nothing against
circumstance, choice is precluded; things'are.good
which the senses report good, and beyond their brief
record there is only the remorseless devaluation of
nature..... 2
It is because of thiscthat Hemingway's characters are
completely devoid of will.
They are paralyzed with the
knowledge of the end of things.
Most of them have even
ceased to struggle.
"There isn't anything I can do about it," Ole Andreson of The Killers~says when he is warned that gangsters
are out to polish him o f f . .3
He has accepted the idea of
death because he knows that it is‘inescapable.
The current
has swept him into an eddy for which he must now give up *
his life.
It is because he has forseeri the end of things
John Peale Bishop, "Homage to Hemingway," New Republic.
89, (November 11, 1936), p. 42.
3
Ernest Hemingway,,"The Killers?" The Fifth Column and the
First Forty-Nine Storiesy p. 386.
54
f<5r a long, ,long time that he now.' simply turns to the
wall and says in the same flat voice:
do.
"No. I got in wrong. There a i n ’t anything to ^
After aswhile I ’ll make up my mind to go out."
Nor is death of the body the only thing to he ex­
pected and horn hy the patient Hemingway characters.
The
girl in Hills Like White E lephants; knows that love is'
dead no matter what the lovers'decide.
anyway," the girl says.
"I don’t feel
"I just know things."
And
what she knows is her own predicament.
lis awareness in Hemingway’s characters 'of an inr
pending sense of disappointment enfuses them
wistful young women or bar-roomi toughs
cation of deep tragedy.
with the impli­
There is a-knowledge of the end
of things that precludes the possibility.'rof struggles
Fate is more than an antagonist; ittis a disintegrative
force that eventually shatters all that it touches * j^And
the characters,' with stoic inaction: are broken in to
their fatal destiniesnfrom the start."]
I
His point, of view, his- state of mind, is a-curious
one, and typical of^the time*--he seems broken in: to
^ Ernest Hemingway, "The Killers," The Fifth Column and
the First Forty-Nine Stories, p. 386.
^ Ernes|| Hemingway,s"Hi11s Like White Elephants," The
Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. p. 374.
55
the agonies of humanity,' and, though even against:
his will, that his only^protest is, as it were, the
grin and the oath of the sportsman who losesrthe
game • °
^ The characters are all engaged in some form or
other of this "taking it," leaves blown violently and aim­
lessly*
They are made to dance, love, grieve, and are
allowed quick snatches of happiness before they are con­
sumed in the incinerator that:is-the end of everything*
And their tragedy is that they are aware that they are
no more than leaves, creatures of futility and caprice, .
who 'have no future and for whom the present is only
time borrowed from death*
They are as futile as the
sexually impotent Jake of The Sun Al-so Rises.■ whoseepredicament is symbolic of the emasculated hopes of his gen­
eration.
"Oh, Jake," says Brett,who loves him sincerely
and hopelessly, "we could have had such a damned good
time together*"
And Jake replies with great seriousness,-
"Yes, Isn’t it pretty to think so." 7
Or again this futility*isppersonified in the deaf, old
man who sits nightly at a-cafe table in A AClean:.Well-Lighted
Place.
Gut down too soon in hisrlast attdmpt to anticipate
death’
-'at the end of a rope, the old man now finds what
P
Edmund Wilson, "Sportsman’s Tragedy," New Republic, 53,
(December 14, 1927')’* P. 103*
^ Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises. p. 259••
56
surcease he can in the brandy bottle.
It was not fbar or dread.
too well.
"What did he fear?':
It was a nothing that he knewc
It was -all a nothing .and a man was^nothing
too." 8
The suspense that is found in Hemingway plots is not
then based on surprise.
There are no false hopes aroused;
the fatal ending is clearly Indicated from the beginning.
There is ^always present the sense of falling away,,as
loosening of values;., the denouement of everything in de­
struction.
This is the drift of all this author's plots,
a trend that is not conveyed by direct implication but by
the attitude of the characters and the mood of the pre­
sentment •
It is a feeling that sinks below the surface and
gives poignancy and direction to the whole..
Actually, narration is accomplished by the depiction:
of the event that is happening at the moment,,unrelated
to that, which has gone on before and with no regard for
that which will happen in the future. . Hemingway plots'
grow in a-series of brilliant, disconnected episodes;,as
accurately and objectively conceived as the product of
the motion picture camera.
The emphasis is laid on
physical action, and the author conceives the scene dis-
® Ernest Hemingway, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," The .
Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. p. 481.
57
passionately and spectatarially:
The hull was on him aB he jumped hack and as he
tripped on aacushion he felt the horn go into h i m , :in
to his side. He grahhed the horn with his two hands
and rode haekward, holding tight Onto the place. The
hull tossed him and he was clear. He lay still. It
was all right• The hull was gone• 9
And old Manuel, the hero of The Undefeated, is gored with­
out fuss or introspection^ in the last bullfight of his
career•
In T_o Have and Have Not HarryyMorgan gets?"his" in
an equally casual manner:
AS Tie stood up,),holding the Thompson guns i n
his left hand, looking around before shutting the
hatch with the hook on hisaright arm, the Cuban
who had lain on the port hunk and had?been shot three
times -through the left shoulder, ,two shots'-going
into the gas tank,tsat up,,took careful aim, .and shot
him in the belly.
These sequences of events, as vividly reportorial as
news photographs,,are not developmental, and when one sit­
uation is^completed,,it passes as completely from the
mind of the author as from the lens' of the camera.
It is?
the reporting of "experiences in a vacuum, without impli*
cation and without past or future.
Harry MOrgan passes ^
9 Ernest Hemingway, "The Undefeated^" The Fifth Column and
the First Forty-Nine Stories, p p • 361-562.
10
-
^
Ernest Hemingway, To. Have and Have Not, p. 172.
;
58
from a Cuban; massacre, to smuggling Chinese, to the bed;
of his wife, and finally to his own death as blindly as'
aerat following a-maze.
He does not profit by his past
experiences, for he thinks of them not at all.
His*
present actions do not govern his future, for his future
is a matter of sheer chance.
It is the present that i s •
his concern, and the present moment is about .all that' he
is capable of handling• .
Action in the writing of Ernest Hemingway is thus
thrown into an unending present, a-present heightened by
the sense of impinging disaster.
Each moment is taut
with foreboding,.excitement derived not from; expectancy
or hope, but the sense of insecurity 'and impermanence.
It is the emotional state bf the zero hour before the
battle in which the prospect of death givesrthe moment an
exaggerated sense of importance, blotting out all that
has gone before and obscuring the vision;of the future.
In this perpetual present the struggle is but .for
a momentary escape from fate,,a-brief postponement of
the inevitable conclusion.
The dominant element in each
key situation is death or disillusion and the efforts of
the characters are directed toward temporary deliverance.
There are no broad hopes of future release for that is im­
possible; that which matters is to escape for a moment, be
59
it by means of the biceps ? ,sex* .or. drinks
Everybody was drunk* The whole battery was"
drunk going along the road in the dark* Weewere going
to Champagne* The lieutenant kept riding his horse
out into the fields and saying to him, "I’m drunk, I
tell youji mon vieux. Oh, I ’m so soused." H
-In this way does the pressure of disaster charge Er­
nest Hemingway's work with high tension,.shocking his charaeterseinto violent agitation, making them lead hectic a n d ■
extreme lives.
They have reduced life to a'sequence of physical sen­
sations, feeling that the war complicated existence,
and that in order to simplify it they must try not
to thinkKabout anything, except drinking, loving,
dancing, fishing, and watching bullfights. 12
And'while these characters are given an exaggerated sense
of the moment £ any consistency of vision that they might
have for the future is'paralyzed.
Without volition,,they
exist madly and precariously?/on the edge of'"disaster until
they are at clast swallowed up by the inevitable.
they behave like Harry Morgan
Then
who was neither surprised
nor angry when shot in the beily^ but "lay quietly and
took i t ;" 13
Ernest Hemingway, In Our'Time.,p * .1*
12
13
Harry Hartwick, The Foreground of American Fiction.,p*. 155.
Ernest Hemingway, .To Have and Have Not.,p* .175* •
60
The feeling of the overlapping of events, the sense
of cause and effect is absent from the fiction of Ernest
Hemingway f
As it has been mentioned, narration is epi­
sodic, each successive event is cut clean from its asso­
ciates.
What has happened in the past has little bear­
ing on what is"happening now.
Because he rarely goes in­
side his characters’ heads, there is little relationship
in this author’s works between character-and circumstance.
The machinery of fate works ceaselessly and dispassion14
ately, with no regard for human effort’or aspiration.
Plots in such a design do not build; they happen.
And action has only the significance of chance.
Events
form themselves casually and carelessly,,and climaxes
rise and fall with the caprice of luck.
Paco in The Capi­
tal of the World finds death carelessly and prematurely
in a boyish skirmish which only by the deepest irony could
b© expected to have mortal results.
The man in The Sea
Change calmly sees the woman he loves leave hinnbecause
of a vice over which she has no control:
And in Hemingway the will is lost to action. There are
actions, no lack of them, but, as when the American Lieu­
tenant shoots the sergeant in A Farewell to Arms, they
have only the significance of chance. Their violence
does not make up for their futility. They may be, as
this casual murder is, shocking; they are not incredible;
but they are quite without meaning. There is no destiny
but death. John Peale Bishop, ,0]c. cit., p. 41.
61
"You're a fine man and it breaker my heart to go:)
off"and leave you
"
"You.have to, ,of course."
"Yes," she said.
"I have to and you 'know it."
And the death of Catharine Barclay, which puts;-an end
to the love-story of A ■F&rewell to Arms, occurs with a
casuality that makes it little more than another unfortu­
nate case of the maternity wards.
That she is not able to
give birth to her baby is no more than the irony of mis­
fortune.
"Don’t worry, darling," Catharine says to her
lover as she lies dying.
"I’m not aabit afraid.
It's
■ I /T
just a^dirty trick."
And it is a dirty trick that fate plays on all of
Ernest Hemingway's characters sooner or later.
It levels
the very good and the very brave as carelessly as. it takes
the cowardly and the weak:
That was what you did. You died. You did not know
what it was all about. You never had time to learn.
They threw-you in and told you the rules and the
first time they caught you off base they killed you.
Or they killed you gratuitously like A y m o . Or gave
you the syphilis like Rinaldo. But they killed you
in the end. You could count on that. Stay around
and they would kill youu ^
None are able to escape and the dominant impression in the
•**5 Ernest Hemingway, "The Sea Change," The Fifth Column and
the First Forty-Nine Stories, pp. 496-497*
1^
Ernest Hemingway., A Farewell to Arms. ,p. 354. .
17 rbld.. ,p. -350.
62
end is one of lostness and futility.
It is'the totality of effect gained from this mood
of futility that gives the works of Hemingway uniformity
and direction.
It i s an implication that, sinksabeneath
the bare statement £ aafeeling that is:'conveyed in every
attitude off’character, ,in every careless whim of circum­
stance.
It is the. knowledge that lies beneath all other
knowledge— -that life is aaprocess of gradual disintegra­
tion and death.
The fatal ending of thingsais inherent‘
in them from; the beginning.
AM
that the world touches"
it destroys; ambition, aspiration, love subside in the
limitless devaluation of nature.
Against this relentless decomposition human will
becomesaa-futile thing.
The beautiful, the brave, thee
good are crushed as surely as the cowardly and the weak.
Some never are aware of this fundamental scheme of things
and are slowly broken by the world they struggle against;
others,; like Marie, the widow of Harry Morgan, find the
secret of reconciliation with the brief-’disillusion of
life'1:
I guess you find out everything in this god-damned
life.
I guess you do all right. I guess I'm prob­
ably finding out. right now* You just go dead inside
and everything is easy. You just go dead like most
people are most of the time. I guess that’s how it
is all right. I guess that's just about what happens
to you.; Well, I've got a good start. I've got a~
good start if that’s what you have to do. I guess
that’s what you have to do all right* I guess that*
it. I guess that’s what it comes-to* All right. I
got a good start then. I'm way ahead offeverybody*/
now-i 1®
-I O
Ernest Hemingway, To_ Have and Haves-N o t , p. 261*
CHAETEIT VI
WAR AND DEATH AND STYLE
"ATI modern American literature comes from one book
by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn,11 says'Ernest Hem­
ingway in The Green Hills of Africa?
before.
"There was nothing
There has been nothingsas good since." 1
And.
this acknowledgment is the one admission of influence that
Hemingway freely owns•
But there were undoubtedly others too.
In the Paris~
days he submitted much of his apprentice work in fiction
to Ezra Pound.
It came back to him blue-penciledj comments"
were unsparing.. Hemingway /learned that writing for ae
newspaper wassquite, different from writing to please-aa
disciple of Flaubert.
Pound was not the young American's only mentor.
Hem­
ingway went often to 12 Rue de Fleuris, where he encoun-
1 Th-e Green Hills of Africa,;,p. 22.
65
tbred the formidable scrutiny of Gertrude Stein.
He hast
said of this period: "Ezra twas right half the time,, and
when he was wrong he was so wrong you were never in any
2
doubt about it* Gertrude was always right."
From these, ,and perhaps from Sherwood Anderson,,he
learned to discover' the natural rhythms of American
speech. ^
This^discovery of the literary value of a-certain
quality in American speech came with peculiar timeliness.
As it has been iterated, the end of the World War brought
with it asgreat revolt in eertain quarters of society
against the older culture.
There was a striking outward,
an experimental!sm that strove to find new values* new
aspects of life that had no echo in them of that which
had been betrayed.
2 John Peale Bishop, "Homage to Hemingway," New Republic.
8 9 $ (November-11, 1936),. p •,.40•
5
“
^ He dislikes, with strange intensity fbr a writer who has
successfully surmounted every one he had undergone,,to
gdmlt influence. Mark Twain apart, .there is none that
he freely owns• . Yet in those years he read Turgeniev
and Defoe, masters-both of ‘straight narrative, and
Marryat, and showed>his sound instinct by learning from
the Joyce of Dubliners -and discarding, with.immense ad­
miration, ,the Joyce of Nl-ysses. Yet it was Sherwood
Anderson of the Ohio Valley, and Gertrude Stein,,who sat
among the Picassos like a .
;monument of home, who taught
the young Hemingway to write as an American. It was
fromshis own speech that he made his admirable prose.
Jbhh.Peaie Bishop}"The -Missing All," Virginia Quarterly
Review*.13, (January,.1937 )f PP* 109-110.
66
The speech of'the American West had a-freshness:and
genuineness about it that appealed to many of the lan­
guishing expatriates,
Gertrude Stein,.for one,.admired
its simplicity, ,it s.-analytic quality1
*, and, ,above all,, the
opportunity found in its repetitions for emphasis; , This
she adapted for her own particular uBe and made it a "part
of her.literary personality,
Ernest Hemingway, under this ’influence,went farther.
He took this fluent prose, employed its repetitions with­
out monotony (where Miss Stein had failed),,and endowed
it with the "beauty of accurate motion;
The result is a:j
heightening of the kind of speech of our time,,not the
mere "rhythm of the proletariat" as is sometimes supposed,
"but an exaggeration in which the whole pattern is never­
theless embodied1*
His style catches the mood of the times
even while it remains characteristically Hemingway.;
This new1rhetoric appealed to the post-War generation
not only as something new and in revolt against the old
society, but as something’which admirably fitted the phil­
osophy and viewpoint of the Twenties,
It has-been previous­
ly observed how certain "grand" words not only lost their
meanings entirely for the men in the War, but became
loathefsome symbols of the hypocrisy and sham behind them.
There was a leaning toward concrete words and phrases.
67
The .fine phrases and figures-offspeech were too remindful
of the culture that had collapsed.
There was open revolt
against them.
And! what should ’bee:more admirably fitted f dr the lit­
erary manifestation of this revolt than the language Amer­
icans ■’actually employed in the trenches, in gfeat part the :•
idionrrof the Middle West?
Hemingway had boyhood" roots in.
the MiddlesWSstttOo, ;which he viewed now'with .nostalgias ^
Conscious of "belonging nowhere in the post-War world, he
seized upon the language'Of the common; man as a means off
recapturing some of thessecurity of youthful values-.
Thus,
to Hemingway and a -great part of "hiss generation, this
nativesidiom had not only the merits’of honesty and fresh­
ness, but was poignant with the half-remembered, things of’
childhood and youth.
This American speech became highly communicative;: in
the usage of Ernest Hemingway, for he learned;the techniques
of muted implications
^ It w a s m o t by accident that their books were almost fall
n o s t a l g i c f u l l of the wish to. recapture some remembered
things
In Paris or Pamplona*; writing,,drinking,,watching
bull fights or. making love, they continued to desire as
Kentucky hill cabin,hayfarmhouse in Iowasor Wisconsin,
the upper Michigan woods, the blue Juniata, ra;.country /
they had "lost, ,ah, lost’," theehome to which they couldn’t:
go back again ever. Malcolm Cowley, Exile1s Return,
p . 12 .
68
Hemingway is -a--master of ’a peculiar equality of Arnerican speech,,its power to suggest other things while
saying, in actual words, almost nothing, at all. 5
The real feeling is sunk below the surface and in its:
silence gives poignancy and significance to the whole..
This ^soundless ‘feeling is in: part due*;, asrit hass
been pointed out, to the association of familiar scenes
with the words and phrases Hemingway employs.. Homely
American expressions, such as "dad," "grub," "guy,"
"bacon and eggs?*" ring out with a nostalgic timbre
among the frankly.r b m a n t i c w o r d s of the world traveler,
"muletai>" "puntillo," bianco." ^
There is a conscious
straining in choice of vocabulary and phrase to recap­
ture the direct simplicity of childhood experiences",
which often results in sthdied naivete of wording:
He lay for a long time with his face in the pillow,,
and after a'■while he forgot to think about Prudence
and finally he went to sleep. When he; awoke in the
night he heard the wind in the hemlock trees putside
^ Robert Littell, ,"Notes on Hemingway'*" New-Republic, 51,
(August "10, 1927), P* 305.
One can see part of his nature— -the hard-boiled half— spurning the grand words that have turned out to be de­
ceivers, ,while another part— -the panache half— -seeks
desperately for a new set of phrases, finding them in
the Spanish pundonor.. in the super-romantic accent he
gives to the death concept,, and in the very vocabulary
of disillusion itself.
Clifton Fadiman, "Hemingway, An
American Byron," Nation. 136, (January 18,,1933),,P• 64.
69
the cottage and the waves of the lake coming in; on;
the shore,,and he went back to sleep*. In the morning
there.wasna?big wind blowing and the waves were run­
ning high:up on the beach and he was'awake a long
„
time before he remembered that his heart was broken;. '
Besides the use of the connotative qualities of famil­
iar words and phrases? Ernest Hemingway employs the devices
of omission and understatement to evoke this unexpressed!
mood in his writing-.
He derives enormous strength from the lowbrow techniquer'Of saydng 'less than he feels* He uses, exter­
nality, .ignorance,,and understatement. If he under­
states? he knows? as a r u l e , ,Just!why he understates*
If he evades? ,it is because he Is sure where he is
going. Even his evasions are relentless.
Both omission and understatement were in vogue i m wartime
when feelings were often too terrible and complicated to
be expressed overtly.
Both devices are highly dramatic
and are peculiarly suited to the rhetoric that Hemingway
chose to employ.
He says himself of the use of omission:
A writer who omits things because he does- not know
them only makes hollow places in his writing. A
writer who appreciates the seriouness of writing
so little that he is anxious to make people see
he is formally educated, cultured or well-bred)is
7 Ernest Hemingway, "Ten Indians," The Fifth Column and
the First Forty-Nine Stories, p. 434.
Q
Robert Littell, o p . cit..,p. 305*
70
merely a p o p p i n j a y . 9
With this precaution-in mind,,Hemingway/never writes;-too
much and he omitsronly that which he /knows.
From this
omission, his^writing takes on a'dual quality, aetanta-' •
lizing comprehension: of things that .the author knows?
hut will not divulge.
In The Killers;, Hemingway leaves out exactly what
every fiction reader is supposed to want to know.
As? it
has been mentioned,,the story is-only an experience, with
no mystery, :no riddle to be solved.
Two gangsters? come to
kill a man and the man accepts his fate with stoic calm.
That is all.
Why they want to kill him,,why the intended'
victim does-not try to escape, what happens in the end-all this is unexpressed.
Nothing is there but the feeling
of the scene, which is made all the stronger by what has?
been omitted. 10
Another peculiar quality of the laconieism, of*Ameri­
can speech is its capacity fhr understatement
its power
^ Ernest Hemingway..Death in the Afternoon, p. .192, ■
■^°A11 we are told is the behavior of the waiting gunmen and
the behavior of the fatalistic victim. And yet the few
facts-that are told are vastly more important,.more val­
uable, .than the facts we are not told. If we were told’
what no other self-respecting story-writer could refrain:
from?telling us* .the story would be ^spoiled. Robert
Littell, op;, c l t .. p . 505.
/ \
71
to suggest significant things- while saying, in actual
words, >almost -nothing at all* > Ernest Hemingway has?capi­
tal! zed ion this device to give his most trivial observations an explosive, ..highly-charged meaning*
In- The SGn Also Rises?his?characters engage in end^
lessj flippant little poses, endless,;flippant conversa*
tions,’ which if accepted; at surface value would mean ex­
actly nothing attall.
But one soon learns thatiwhen Jake
says-"Righto,.to the Select ," he isractually undergoing
a?deep emotion that he can only express,.in his reticence,
with trivialities.
Not only ’'do characters understate the
depths'of their own feelings, hut Mr. .Hemingway often de­
liberately understates?the presentation.of an idea,.which
in turn only magnifies?the significance o f >the concept
once one hae-fallen in with the Hemingway pattern of ex­
pression:
‘
We were in a-garden at Mons. Young Buckley
came in with’his patrol from: across the river. The?
first German I saw climbed up over
the garden wa l l . •
We waited till he got one leg over and then potted
him-. He had iso much equipment on and looked awfully
surprised and fell down into the garden. Then three
more came over further down the wall. We shot them.
They all came just like that. H
The casual tone of thisrscene
understates?its impor-
11 Ernest Hemingway, "The End of Something," The Fifth
Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, ,p. 205*
72
tance; it is not quail the narrator is shooting hut human
beings.
The emotion of pity
separate fromr-this scene
which is impossible to
finds no overt expression; the~
deaths of the surprised Germans' are as objectively./depictr
ed as the
fall of targets in a shooting gallery.
Nothing
at all.is
said of the ffeelings of the men who do the shoot­
ing, but in:the casualness of their action, their emotionsc
are felt sharplyy. , The wasteful horror of .war
the idea-
which the author deliberately understates.here
strikes
12
home more poignantly because of the subdued treatment.
This
leaning toward the purposely barren obviates the
use of figures
of speech.
"Figures of speech appear rarely/
in his writing, as they do in our own thoughts and conver­
sations.
He uses them principally to emphasize carefully
13
selected points."
Hemingway has discovered that figura­
tive language makes a barrier between the feeling of a
scene and its recreation in the reader.
The sensory ex^-
perience in which this author is interested is at most
12
^
It is easy to see how a story like this could convey the
impression, that Hemingway is indifferent alike to cruelty
and suffering. And yet this tale is a precise record of
emotion
It is the bare happening that is set down,,
and only the happening that must arouse in the reader
whatever emotion he is capable of according to his nature,
pity, horror,,disgust• John Peale Bishop, "Homage to
Hemingway," New Republic, 89, (November 11,. 1 9 3 6 ) p. 41.
Arthur Dewing,,"The Mistake About Hemingway," North
American Review. ,232. (October,s1931), p. .368.
73
times-/best set forth by direct expression*
EzraaPound used to blue-pencil energetically/most :,oft'
the adjectives in Hemingway-'s nearly writing,, and the young
author profited accordingly *: Now he employs;/ adjeetivess
sparingly, .using them in contextssin which their meanings':
are clear-cut and decisive*
This'^restraint,, alone, doess
much to give hisework a^virile, clean-cut quality*.
Ernest Hemingway's sentences, ,as it has been said,,
are patterned on the vernacular:, ,having the loose con­
structions of everyday speech*
Now,, the spoken language
of the common people,,when transferred to the medium, of
writing,-,tends toward a -sameness that soon becomes monot­
onous, »
There collectsria'superabundance of "saids;" there
is far too much compounding with "and?! in violation of
every rule of logic*
To offset these tendencies,,Heming­
way fluctuates ./his rhythm*
Vbrying the usual run of1 short ,
concrete sentences, he scrambles tenses, .mixes passive and
active elements,’ employs strange and .unusual inversions',
and often plunges into rambling sentences that are breath­
taking:
*
/
There were small gray motor-cars that passed going
very fasti usually there was an officer on:the seatt
with the driver and more officers in the back seat’*
They splashed more mud than the camions even and if
one of the officers in the back was very small and
.sitting between two generals'j,he himself so small
that you could not see his face but only the top of'
his-cap and his narrow back,,and if the car'went es-
•
*
pecially fdet it was. probably the King*
l II
Ahd Iwhile Hemingway uses Gertrude.Stein* s device off
repetitionsy,unlike the Stein-stutter his repetitions do
not confuse meaning but emphasise and clarify’* Repeated
elementS3beafetwith the insistence of the spoken word* .
"Oh no* I won't die.
I wouldn't die.
It Is silly to die."
The stricken Catharine Barclay moans the word die until
it is drummed into the reader's consciousness*
There are some elementsrin Ernest Hemingway *s-rwriting
that are so iterated that'.they take on— -paradoxically/
enough
the significance of symbols*
And:1while the
author's belief in simplicity would belie-this interpre­
tation, ,these elements?} nevertheless, ,assume a-meaning
that isilarger and above their own natures*
The lone
hy-
enaain.The Snows of Killman.laro takes on the universal
quality of death as' its "strange, human,,almost crying
sound" is heard attthe edge of the camppwhere the hero
lies dying'. ^
And in The Sun Also Rises‘Jake’s-sexual-
impotence becomes ‘
-almost a symbol offall post-War futility.
Ernest Hemingway,,A Farewell to Arms,,p ..4.
15 Ibid.*'P. .34b.
^
Ernest Hemingway, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," The Fifth
Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories?; p .. 174 •
75
These half-symbolic elements are a part of the mood
that underlies the concrete statement i n Hemingway ’s:
writing; t|iey suggest the deeper perception that. lies., be­
neath the plain-speaking exterior. . For in the strength oft
homely -words and phrases, Ernest Hemingway has. found aa
means of communication that, is both suggestive and accurate..
The most dramatic part of Hemingway’s writing and the:.
mo.st original, ,is his dialogue.
This is purely/a?Heming*r
way invention,,an exaggeration: of the kind of speech of'
our time.
The dialogue, ;by which much of the narrative
progresses, has-a universal sameness in a manner in. which
17
neither the author nor anybody else really talks.
“The
speech of the characters reveals the weight of the whole
complex>: of attitudes, ..conduct, morality, ,and disintegration
of values*"
In pattern it is as laconic as^a cablegram, and as
capable of suggestion.
Highly charged with the dynamite of
understatement and omission, this dialogue is-like the
sland expression "O.K." capable of a thousand innuendoes:
^
Delmore Schwartz; "Ernest Hemingway's: Literary Situa­
tion," Southern Review. 3 no. 4, (1938),,p. 771.
1P i
xo The Hemingway dialogue is a pure invention. He does not
talk like his characters and neither does Miss Stein.
And it was not until they had read Hemingway’s books
that the two ladies of the Rue de Fleuris acquired:
those dramatic tricks of speech. John Peale Bishop,
"Homage to Hemingway," New Republic. 89* (November 11,
1936),, p..- 41.
76
"Sit down," said Harvey, .“I've been looking for
you;*"
"Whatus the matter?"
"Nothing. . Just looking for youu"
"Been out to the races?"
"No. Not since Sunday."
"What do you .hear from- the States?"
’"Nothing. Absolutely nothing.".
"What* s- the matter?"
"I don't know.
I'm through with them?. . I'm abso­
lutely through with them."
He leaned forward and looked me in the eye.
"Do >you want to know something Jake?"
"Yes i".
"I haven't had anything to eat for five days,*"
While the speech of the Americans has a slangy same­
ness for all,,that of the foreigner is made a-shade differ­
ent by the carrying over of the native idiom.. In: The
Battler M r ..Hemingway communicates the essential qualityv
of negro speech’without the use of phonetic spelling.
"You'll feel better,, Mister Franc iaq" the negro's voice:
PO
sooths, "Just you drink a-cup of this shot coffee*"
Arid by catching the inherent politeness, the faint twists?
of idiom, the author conveys the essence of negro speech
without departing greatly from-his dialogue formula*
The modification of the foreigner’s speech is often
used aa-a device to set him off from the stupid throng of
Americans, who are generally yin Hemingway’s writings;* a?
19
20
Ernest Hemingway, ■,The Sun Also Rises;, ,p. .43.
-
Ernest Hemingway, "The Battler," The Fifth Column and
the First Forty-Nine Stories,,p . .236.
77
crass-and unfeeling lot.
This fusion of style and values
is demonstrated in The G-ambler, the N u n , and the Radio, aa
story in which aabrave Mexican gambler is bullied by a-a
hardened American detective:
. '‘Listen,11 the detective says? “this is not Chi­
cago. Y o u ’re not a gangster. You don't have to act
like a moving picture. . It's all right to tell who
shot youw That's all right to do."
Arid although the little Mexican understands-English very
well, he pretends not to comprehend until the speech iss
translated into his own stylized terms that contrast him
and his way of life with the banality of the American
world:
"Listen amigo," says-the translator.
"The po­
liceman says you-are not in Chicago'but in Hailey,
Montanas • You are not a bandit and this; has nothing
to do with the cinemas. One can with honorrdenounce
one’s assailant. Everyone does it here."
And not until he is distinguished from the general run, of
middle-class Americans and thus acknowledged to belong to
a different cultural group,), does -the little gambler re­
ply*
"I believe him;.
Y a l o creo."
pi
Ernest Hemingway, "The G-ambler, the Nun, and the Radio,"
The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Storiesi pp..
537-568.
78
This dialogue pattern, which approaches closely to
formalization, has developed in great part,,like most
everything else that is characteristic:of Ernest Heming­
way a© a^writer, out of/his'-'war experiences.
It is'ae
part of the feeling deeper than expression, ,a-part of .the
v reticence of men who have known the time when death be­
comes a c o m m o n p l a c e e v e r to want to talk about their
emotions any more.
Then a universal desire develops to
talk about anything, anything but that which i s t o o near
at hand and too terrible to be discussed.
In such a time do the shortest words have an exag­
gerated significance, the deepest meanings hang upon the
turn of a phrase.
The import of men's speech sinks be-
lowwthe level of their words"and is conveyed by the im­
plication of the unexpressed.
The pressure of pent-up
emotion forces the dialogue into a tension, of high sugges­
tibility.
That which is close to the heart can never bee
conveyed by actual words.
Anything is preferable.to the.,
discussion of how one really feels
for that is often too
intense for expression.
In A-Way Y o u ’11 Never Be a shell-shocked veteran has
much of this same feeling for words, as he lays down the
formulaefor all dialogue in the fiction of Ernest' Heming­
way when he says:
’’Let-*s not talk about how; I am.
Itfs a subject
I know too much ahout to want to think about it any
more. dd
22
Ernest Hemingway,,"A Way You'ill Never Be," The Fifth
Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, p. .5 0 5 .
80
CHAPTER VII
WAR AND DEATH AND ST1CLE (SENSE IMPRESSIONS )
HI was not made to think," Lieutenant Henry declares
in A Farewell to Arms, "I was. made to eat.
Eat and drink and sleep with Catharine."
My God, yes.
^The retreat
to the level of physical sensation marks Ernest Hemingway
and a good share of the disillusioned of 'his generation.
From the complications of the War, this group developed
into determined extroverts.^
Other writers of the post-War period had gone to the
opposite extreme.
Their thoughts .were forced in on their
minds in reaction to the hreakdowm of idealized^concep­
tions*
A A a^result, an "Introspective" school of writing
sprang up, novelistsswho tried to portray the delicate
working of the mind.
and romantic aspects.
The "unconscious" took on strange
Characters no longer did anything
^ Ernest Hemingway 9 , A Farewell to Arms, p. 249» ■
81
"but only thought. 2
\But in the insecurity of the Hemingway world, nothing,
so sensitive, so fugitive as the workings of the mind
could "be recorded with any accuracy in writing.
The flux:
of the thinking processes "made their resolution as materi­
al for the writer untrustworthy.'. Thus, .he h a s <:come to
care little for the minds r-of his characters,- to account
for their actions and reactions,, to explain:.
He: is con­
cerned only with what: they feel and dcu\
He instinctivelyymistrusts explicitness,,analysis:^
imputation of motives, investigation of the soulsn
of others, qualifying adjectives., ,andl a heart worm
on the sleeve • 3
It doeS':not take a:psychologist to know that the term.
sensation is very abstract, because the whole history of
the organismnparticipates in the reaction to aastimulus?
and actively determines-its nature, so that one experi-
p
The emphasis :on mind was heightened by the World.War.
The disillusion of the Twenties was aawhole generation’s
disillusion with the false ideals^ false beliefs, and
false practices of its elders, with the false way of
living which had brought about that1vicious^ incompa­
rable, ,unpardonable folly,',and; which still inexorably/
controlled the destinies of the men and women who sur­
vived'* Arthur Dewingi "The Mistake About Hemingway^"
North American.Reviews 232, (October,,1931) P ••365•
■z
Robert Littell, "Notesron Hemingway," New:Republic t
51, (August 10,,1927), P. 305.
82
ences asstimulus-with his whole past.
However, when the
sensory experience is -dominated by some primary emotion
concerned with sight,, sound, etc., the main sensation, can
be recorded by adhering closely to the naked stimulus*
By -/isolating the bare sensory '/experiences of hi s characters*
Ernest Hemingway is able to transmit the feelings'of those
whom::he writes about as accurately /and as dispassionately/
as if they were subjects in psychological research.
/He is further aided in this by the fact that his char­
acters are separate and alone at the present moment,.having
little or no history.
Although they usually have
nation­
ality, ,it is mostly for the sake-of conversational idiom.
They are uncharacterized human beings, man or woman alone
in a world without history or future, ,suspended in the
vacuum of the moment and governed only by the basic emo-
On the level in which Hemingway's interest lies, there
are no standards of civilization or experience. Case his:tory means^little or nothing to him*
He took many people
to the bullfight, purposely/chosen fromra variety of
classes, ,sexes, and backgrounds, and could observe no
correlation between degree of culture and enjoyment of the
spectacle:
I have taken many people,,bothhmen and women,
to bullfights and have seen their reactions to the
83
death and goring of the horses in the ring and their
actions rare quite unpredictable * . Women that I felt
sure would enjoy;-the bullfights with the exception! of
the goring of the horses were quite unaffected by it...
Other people, ..both men and women, ..were so affected that
they were made physically ill*, .let me say now that
there was no difference, or line of difference, so
that these people could be divided by any standard
of "civilization or experience into those that were
affected and those that were not affected* ^
Past conditioning has small effectton the emotional level
to which the corrida de toros appeals*
Man is naked and
alone, unaffected by schooling, ethics,,or memories1
-;of
mother*
His reactions are the unsophisticated,.natural
reactions of the animal
the behavior in which Ernest
Hemingway is interested lies:below the planes of incul­
cated ethics'*
It is aareturn to the primitive*
^ The feeling for death isathe nucleus of this viewr•point, ..as^was the universal death-experience of the War
its cause.
It h a s rbeen observed^ow the imminence of"
death in the World Wan heightened sense awareness and re­
vealed itsasolid satisfactions.
The joys of drinking,
loving, and muscular exertion superseded the experiences;
to be found on the higher levels of human activity*
For
these higher satisfactions-had proved treacherous; the
eollapise of the idealized concepts of society .had made re­
ligion, ,ethics? .any sort of"spiritual aspect of life for
the moment a ;sham;and a'disillusion.
Men returned to the
^ Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon, p, 4*
84
plane of the physical animal because here they found some­
thing stable and s u r e . \ ^
With the coming of the Armistice^ appetites long
accustomed to the pressure of war were forced to cast*:
about for substitutes to recreate the stimuli to which
they had become adjusted.
Many found in the bullfight, ini
big-game hunting, in the confusion of lifeein, Montparnasse
tlce circumstances which suited them.
Here was ’found the
simplicity rof emotion that.^the constant awareness of death
produces•
"So' I went to Spain to see the bullfights-and to try
«
to write about themvfor myself.
I thought they would be
simple and barbarous and cruel and that I '.would not like
them,,but that I would see certain definite aetions which
I was working for."
But Ernest Hemingway stayed and
fOund the corr i d a -much to his liking; its bloody reputar
tion he discovered to be only another false social attitude
The superfluities of inculcated sentiment and emotion were
eroded away by the excitement of the fatal contest, ;leaving;
5 The W a r , ,1 said,."infected;us with the slow poison of
irresponsibility rand unconcern for the future
the poi­
son of travel too.....and the poison-offdanger, excite­
ment, that made our old life intolerable. Then,as- sudrdenly. aa it began for us:j the War ended*1
leaving- behind
it desires *and habits which were difficult to satisfy
in aaworld of peace. Malcolm Cowley, "Farewell to Spain,"
New”Republic, 73, (November 11,.1936),.p.. 76.
^ Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon..p,> 3*
85
onlyvthe honesty of ■the naked sensation,
"It provided
everything, ,t r a v e l e x c i t e m e n t , crowds like armies watch­
ing the spectacle of danger." ^
And this -was what Heming­
way was interested in.
Here he studied death, not with the mind of a philos?* opher, hut with the eye of atreporter who was trying to re­
produce just those things which created the emotion that
the shock of death brings to the bystander.
Like G-Oya in
Los Desastros de l a -Guerra-he did not shut his eyes before
the fatal climax? but looked wide-eyed in an effort to con­
vey just those things 'which were necessary to make perma­
nent the feeling of the scene.
He found that it was the:
"clean, clean, unbearably clean whiteness of the thigh
bone," the sight of dirty underwear1, .the look of surprise
on the face of the g o r e d :matador that-he remembered-and which
had moved 1hi nr* as he had been moved long before by the
sight of "the heat, the fl'ies? .the indicative positions of
the bodies in the grass? and the amount of paper" scattered!
abouththe World War dead. ®
This desire to explore the anatomy of death*—
7
8
amount­
Malcolm-Cowley , ,ojd . clt.« ,p. 76.
Ernest Hemingway, "A Natural History of the Dead," The
Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, p. 540.
86
ing to an al-most morbid obsession
had a paradoxically;/
healthy effect on the rest of his writing.
Because he
had learned to distrust the traditional death concepts?,
Hemingway began to lose faith in all sentiment and exces­
sive emotion*
He discarded all superfluities.
He elim­
inated tany emotional excrescence that did not tie up di­
rectly with sense impressions. ^
The result is sometimes as’ happy as Big Two-Hearted
River,.which tells the simple account of aaman who goes'
fishing and enjoys i t . . In the firm, .bold hands of ErnestL
Hemingway this story becomes a-distillation! of sensations
in which there is not a-bit of static literary descrip­
tion, no pastoral, soliloquies, no fish-pitying paroxysms..
The height of spiritual feeling comes when the hero opens
a can of pork and beans into a frying pan, and then takes
asspoonful of ’the warm foods "Chrises" he says? "Geezus
•i
Ghri s e ,
he s ays happily•
10
This reluctance to give overt consideration to the
more elevated phases of experience forces the higher emo-
His principle desire is to keep things from becoming
complicated, ,to keep them simple, by reducing everything
to its-lowest terms, as he has.;:moral s. Harry Hartwick,
The Foreground of American Fiction,, p. 156.
^ E r n e s t Hemingway, uBig Two-Hearted River,” The Fifth
Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, p..514.
87/
tions below the level of Hemingway's words;
His ideas about life,, or'rather his sense of whatt
happens and the way in which it happens,, is.'In hisr
stories sunk deep below the surface and is conveyed
not by argument or preaching but by directly transmitted emotion; it is turned into something as hard'
as crystal and as disturbing as: a great lyric; H
This undercurrent of meaning has been shown to be due in.
large part to Hemingway’s employment of understatement andomission, his deliberate choice of highly connotative
words and phrases, and the casual and matter-of-fact man­
ner in which he describes" scenes of high tension and vio­
lence .
Once felt, this silence underlying all sound makes-
significant that which is on the surface callous and
brutal*
In Ernest Hemingway's great/love story,.A Farewell to
A r m s , .the elevated emotion that Lieutenant Henry and Cath­
arine Barclay feel for each other is conveyed entirely by
the muted implication of sense impressions.
"I was crazyy
about’ her," is about all the Lieutenant can say in way off
explanation of his.feelings;
Their love story is told in
apseries of amorous episodes that would make the work
frankly erotic if it were not for the suggestion of a high­
er perception.
And even this hint of a >more noble passion
Edmund Wilson, "Letters -to the Russians About Heming­
way," Hew Republic, 85, (December 11, ,1935)* .
•P • 135.
88
is=>often hard pressed to "beat its wings in an effort to
lift: the story above the level of animal lust •
"Feel our
hearts-beating," says Catharine in one of their inevitable
embraces•
"I don’t care about our hearts,
I want you.
I ’m'just mad about you," replies Lieutenant Henry direct­
ly.
And thus it is.’
^ There is not only a -reluctance on the parts of the
characters7to analyze their own fe'elings, butta complete
refusal o m t h e part of the author to explain theiju
Heming­
way is-content with the spectatorial attitude of a-Winchell
who only looks and listens.
Rarely does he go inside a-
character’s head,:. and when he does take this extreme course
it is when the character-is'undergoing a violent emotion,
that narrows his thinking processes -to one constricted
channel,
ihen this stream of thinking becomes as a-sen-
sation, dominated by the pressure of the single emotion^)
i
When Catharine lies dying in the- hospital Lieutenant
Henry undergoes one such stream;of consciousness* ^
12
Ernest Hemingway* ;A Farewell to Arms, .p..-99* •
When Hemingway does go inside Henry ’sr-mind for an effect,.
Henry himself is undergoing an experience so powerful
that his mind, as ours would be, is for the moment" clari­
fied, unified, made almost mechanical by its concentra­
tion on the circumstances it confronts-. That is why Hen­
r y 1s stream of consciousness’while Catharine is in child­
birth rings-true. Arthur Dewing, o p . cit., p. 367#
/
\
89
She can't die. Why should she die? What reason is
there for her to die? There’s just a child that has
to he horn, the by-product of good nights in Milan.
It makes trouble and is horn and then you look after
it and' get fond of it maybe. But what if she should
die? She won’t die. She's all right. Buttwhat ifi
she should die? Say, what about t h a t ? . What’ if she
should die? ^
The lieutenant’s thoughts, if such they can be called, are
in this instance an Impressionistic treatment of a-strong
fear, a- dramatic’ device by which is-revealed the turmoil
of great emotion'.
Jut most of the time the Hemingway characters do not
approach even~this closely to introspection.
They report
the impressions they receive from their sense receptors
readily enough, but this sensation remains unanalyzed.
"This is good," or again, "This is lousy," is about all
that they 'Will commit themselves. . Any more subtle anal­
ysis of their feelings’approaches too closely to the
preciosity which they despise. .\
SUch a concept of sense impressions makes a profound effect on description in the Hemingway writing.
A&r
sent are catalogued inventories of background,.detailed
masses of setting.
What” Ernest Hemingway records are just
those things that would remain in the memory of the ordinary, intelligent person-had he seen the things being desr
scribed.
Only the salient aspects of the landscape are
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Ahms. p.. 34-2.
mentioned: a lone tree (Hemingway's ‘botanical knowledge
stops at,elm or oak), arrange of hills, a ’ruined cathedraljust enough to orient one in the locale
Characters are usually faceless; Hemingway does
little more than impart4a general aspect, such as "good
looking" or"young."
Catharine Barclay; who is observed in
lengthy moments of great intimacy in A Farewell to A r m s .
has little more to' differentiate her from her sisters than
the skimpy description that Lieutenant Henry gives when he
first meets"her•
"Miss Barclay was quite tall.
She wore
what seemed to me to be a nurse's uniform, was blonde and
had- a tawny skin and grey eyes.
beautiful." ^
I thought she was very
What was the rest of Miss Barclay i s '
never mentioned.
pNor is this reluctance to describe in detail owing to
aalimited power of observation, in Hemingway, but is- a part
of his principle of remaining wholly on the level of the
primary senses.
Sensory experience determines-the weight
of description,,and when~ the senses are heightened by an
IS Hemingway never makes the mistake of attempting
‘
completerepresentation. He renders not all aspects but merely-/
the most significant, ,those most- likelyyto impress them­
selves upon an active mind. ' He gives us .not photographs:
but impressions a s ’we might experience them.in life.
His ^characters, .scenes, and events are rendered by means'
of carefully selected general impressions unified, p e r ­
manently fixed, by significant details. Arthur Dewing,.
o p . -c i t ., ,p. 368.
91
emotional disturbance to an added awareness, there is a-resultant growth of detail.
In moments of excitement, as
in the stress of sport or the imminence of death, sHemingway is fastidious ■■’
-to record every feature that is part of
the emotion of the scene:
I could see the curve in the line and the next
time he jumped he'was astern and headed out to sea..
Then he came out again and smashed the water white
and I could ’.see he was hooked in the side of the
mouth’
. The stripes showed! clear on him:. He was a
find fish, bright silver now4 barred with purple,,
and as big around as a log. ^
T h i s d s no engorgement of dead detail; all that is men­
tioned ties in directly with the feeling of the sport
which the author seeks to impart.
Hemingway h a s 'observed]
and remembered those things which produce the emotion
that fishing gives
the pull on the line, the flash of
silver, the churning of the water.
The effort of Ernest Hemingway to impart the emotion,
in connection with violent death often leads to passages
of frank horror.
And a-further effort to do similarlyy
with scenes of an amatory nature has placed him in line
for the disputed American title .for obscenity in literal
ture.
Thisszeal fbr distilling sense impressions from
details— — m i x e d d n , one must admit, with a?good deal of
17
Ernest Hemingway, To Have and Have Mot, p. 16.
92
naughty bravado.-— has placed Hemingway consistently within
the covers of the nation’s leading magazine featuring men’s
t
fashions and sophomoric pruriency.
Again, this interest!
in the morbid aspects of eexual conduct is aapart of the
manifestation of "the War*
It M s a part of the great:
chaos t h a t threw Hemingway and a-segment of his generation:
on their own sensations, and which invariably charges
his work with that chaos from which he w o u l d ‘escape.
It has been observed how all of Mr. Hemingway's work
moves in the subworld of the primary senses.
His ideas
about life sink deep below the surface and are conveyed
by crystallized-emotion.
AAhigher perception is:felt i n
the gropings of his blinded characters,,the disorder of
events,.the utter confusion of sensory experiences.
This:
undercurrent of understanding gives his work direction
and significance which is felt rather than observed.
Iti
is only when the ear is-'tuned to catch this: silent mean­
ing underlying all sound that*the:sense reporting of Hem­
ingway becomes interpretive of human experience.
Then do .
his rough concepts take on the refined edges of thought.
Then do his puppet characters assume the dignity/of human
beingsr;
For after all, perhaps in this sense reporting Er­
nest Hemingway has found the truest way to express him­
self, the only way that is possible for him.
SSraewhere
93 >
in those experiences in war and impending death, something'
developed in this author that, has prevented him forever
from5 overtly speaking the things that must lie deepest in
his heart.
For when Margaret Anderson told himrthat A ‘
Farewell to Arms would have been "an altogether remarkable
book, if, instead of dealing with a purelyyaccidental, in­
stinctive love, it dealt with something with some quality
of awareness in it," he i s -said to have replied:
"I don’t get you. Those two people really
loved each other. Gee, he was crazy '-about her."
From-his sown point of view Ernest Hemingway was:-right.
his point of view is valuable’.
^
Arthur Dewing, ,ojo. c i t .. .p. 371*
And
94
CHARTER VIII
CONCLUSION'
It has been shown how the feeling for death, as form­
ed from experiences in and immediately after the first
World War, .has directed the growth and development of the
writing of Ernest Hemingway*
Going deeper than the choice
of "subject matter, this mood of death has "been shown to
direct the flow of Hemingway’s plots, to control the
actions of his characters, to affect his style, and to
form, in fact, the core of his philosophy.
....death is the unescapable reallty,,the one thing
that any.man may be sure of; the only security; that
it transcends ".all modern comfortsrand that with it
you do not need a bathtub in every American home,
nor, ,when you; have it, do you need Ithe radio; 1
This philosophy of death, it has been pointed out, is a pro­
duct of a special time and a special region of society.
is- the viewpoint of a^great share of the postr-War genera­
1 Ernest Hemingway,,Death in the Afternoon;.p. 266.
Itt
tion which has been designated romantically as "lost."
It
ispthe philosophy of the Twenties*
.These post-War young people seized upon this view­
point in a careening world.
It was the reaction.to a-
seemingly total collapse of human values and standards.
It was a-protestlagainst the careless -destruction of the
War which enfused with futility every aspect of life ex­
cept the ever-present thought of death.
This philosophy
of fatalism'wah an immediate process of revulsion, and’assuch, swung far to the extreme•
Thus,' if the works of Ernest Hemingway amount to
nothing more, they chronicle the mood and embody./the spir­
it of a great segment of the world after the year, 1916.
For by the technique of enlargement, the booksi of Heming­
way clarify the dissatisfactions of that:unhappy genera­
tion, >just as-'-his career, starting at the right time, em­
bodies d o perfection the mute longings and confused ideals
of his day.
And a hero-myth he has'become to many,.a.
modern Byron,,with his feet in the bullring and his eyes
fixed on the firm'of Charles Scribner's Sons.
The end of the first World War left Hemingway and
his generation adjusted to a-zscheme of thingsrthat had
suddenly ceased.
Geared to a&higher tempo, they,, who
could afford it, sought in the corrida, in violent sports,
in the obscure corners of the world to live their lives
96
in the rhythm, that- the War had taught them.
For the
peacetime world had suddenly "become uhendurable•
They reverted, as they had done in'wartime,,to the
level of their primary senses'.
Sebc became a startlingly
new plaything; new aapects were revealed and in the writ­
ing of Hemingway are found all the morbid manifestations
of the post-War libido.
A callous interest in bloodshed
wa,s displayed jauntily, being taken up by Hemingway with
bravado.
The joys of eating,,drinking,,loving, hunting,
became the goal to be achieved, a'(goal which had in it
none of the false ring of the traditional culture.
Sense impressions in the work of Mr. Hemingway, as
it has ’been shown, became dominant.
He seeks to express
overtly only physical sensations, isolated and crystal­
lized with a scientific accuracy.
For by looking close­
ly at-, those things which produce the feeling of a scene,
he recreates those emotions, clear-cut and vigorous, in.
the reader.
Hemingway's ideas about*life,,or rather his sense
of what happens, thus sinks below the surface of his
stories and is conveyed by muted implication.
His is an
architectural rather than a verbal talent,., and for a?
deeper perception one must look beneath his reporter's
harvest of words.
There,,if one is able to glimpse it,
is 'an understanding that, gives a “-sense of coherence ;
97
and direction to the whole.
Because his view of life is one of perpetual disin­
tegration, Ernest Hemingway’s writing is smitten with the:paralysis
of extreme fatalism.
Death assumes the propor­
tion, if not the dramatic quality,.of a cosmic steam-roll­
er, crushing all the living without: passion or preference.
Because there is no escape, his characters are devoid of
will; ever-cons clous- of their impending fate, -they live
precariously in the vacuum of their basic senses.
In this timeless present before disaster,sthe men
and women in Hemingway’s world must formulate their ethics
by fiat of their own natures.
Whithout past or future,
cut off from the main currents of existence,;they are un­
touched by group moralityv
Instead, there emerges ae
code that is based on the fundamental human decencies:, as
code evolved out of the shifting values of wartime that
i s clittle more than a'-broad sense of the "sporting” atti­
tude.
It isr,by this standard of conduct that the char­
acters of Ernest Hemingway are judged and by which they
)
judge each other.
As a result of, this morality Hemingway has come to
have an honest regard for discipline.
In bullfighting,
in writing, in deep-sea fishing,;in any highly disci­
plined endeavor, he has found something as*admirable as
Veuve Cliquot 1903 or his own cojones.
It is'the spirit
98
of the matador or the author, who,, in the face of all dis­
couragements, .painstakingly perfects his skill to the ut­
most limit of his powers.
For in this sense of the metier,,
this discipline of the game,,Hemingway finds satisfaction)
and compensation-'in the decaying spectacle of the world.
This disillusion with all things enfuses his work
with an impending feeling of disappointment.
sense of falling away, of loosening of values.
There is a^
The de­
velopment of plot is but the disintegration of all that
the story touches; the beautiful, .the brave,, the good are
inevitably bemired by contact with the world. , Struggle
is a futility, for those that the world cannot bend it
breaks.-
All that is left is the sportsman's grin and the
knowing wisecrack.
Thus do Hemingway plots have the impersonal flow off
asriver.
Events form themselves carelessly and casually,
eddy for a moment on the surface of the stream, and then
lose themselves in- the inexorable flow of. the current;.
Characters are bad swimmers in these waters of circum­
stance, drowning-easily or painfully, hopefully/or despair­
ingly, but drowning, one may be sure, in the end.
Perhaps the happiest effect of the World War on Er­
nest Hemingway
although an indirect result
was that
it placed him- in a position of susceptibility to the dra­
matic possibilities of American speech.
Throwing literary/
99
conventionalities by the board,.he has welded the thought
of his time to the languageaof his:-time. .
This union of style and viewpoint resulted from, the
natural suitability of the American idiom for expressing
the philosophy of the post'-War period.
x
Te~rse, .plain-
n
spoken, with the barrenness of understatement and omis­
sion, this vernacular as adopted"by Hemingway has lead
some unknown wit to complain that everything he writes
sounds like "a-crisis in a-cable." ^
Nevertheless,.it is
through the use of this coarse-grained style, having as
its core the dialogue pattern that is his invention, that
Ernest Hemingway has been the most successful of his con­
temporaries in catching the mood of the "lost" generation.
Thus has the concept of death, growing out of experiences.fin war, determined in great part Ernest Hemingway
as a-stylist, as a spokesman of his generation, as aamoralist, as aasportsman.
It has determined the flow of his
plots, .governed the method of characterization.
Above all,
it has made him the most significant writer of his era*
for in fumbling for the meaning of his own experience,, he
interpreted and made permanent the mood of the times.
His is the tragedy of a ‘generation which was com-
^ Arthur Dewing,. "The Mistake About Hemingway," North
American Review, p. .232, (October, 1931), p. .366.
100
pelled to lookrtoo long and searchingly at the spectacle
of death, ,until death hecame for it the only actual and
enduring reality.
A-man wrote in the English language not so very long
before the time of Ernest Hemingway:
Life is real, ,life is earnest’
And the grave is not the goal
An3f^Ernest Hemingway sadly wise-cracked: ’’And where did
they bury him?
earnestness?"
And what became of the reality and the
3
Ernest Hemingway, o p . c i t p. .266.
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WAR AND DEATH IN THE FICTION OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY
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v
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, The Green Hills of Africa.. New York:
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Charle
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