Research Paper: Ernest Hemingway: Exploring Life's Conflicts

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Ernest Hemingway: Exploring Life's Conflicts

Ernest Hemingway used conflict, death, and loss in his characters to identify with readers on a personal level.

Death is a part of life

Death emerges in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"

Harry looses his life

Harry looses his soul

Conflict is a part of life

Conflict is a theme in "Soldier's Home"

Krebs suffers loss and conflict in the war

Krebs' greatest conflict is his inner conflict

Krebs is defeated because he gives up

Inner conflict remains one of the most tortuous

Inner conflict is a theme in "Now I Lay Me"

Nick suffers from shell shock during the war

Nick cannot return to his normal way of life before the war

Nick controls his conflict by avoiding sleep

Thesis: Ernest Hemingway used conflict, death, and loss in his characters to identify with readers on a personal level.

Death

A. "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"

Harry's life

Harry's soul

Conflict

A. "Soldier's Home"

Krebs' loss and conflict

2. Krebs' inner conflict

3. Krebs' defeat

III. Inner conflict

A. "Now I Lay Me"

1. Nick's shell shock

2. Nick's inability

3. Nick's control

Earnest Hemingway is well-known for capturing the imagination of readers across the world. One reason for this is his distinctive point-of-view on life, death, and conflict. Hemingway did not fear writing about difficulties and conflict and writing could very well have been the best form of therapy for the author. This therapy works out well for readers, as they cannot only be entertained but they rest assured they are not alone with feelings of insecurity, xxx, conflict, and loss. One of the most prevalent themes we see in Hemingway's work is the conflict involved with simply being alive. Conflict, like death, is a part of being alive. Through Harry's death experience in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," readers see the many ways one can die. In "Soldier's Home," Hemingway uses conflict to demonstrate the difficulty of returning to normal after a harrowing event. In "Now I Lay Me," we see an inner conflict that makes the most restful thing in the world the most stressful thing in the world.

Hemingway was no stranger to excess. His life as an expatriate overseas exposed him to a life of variety and experimentation. If we are to look at Hemingway's life through his art, we can see how excess manifests itself in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." This story concludes with a glorious, yet delusional death. Susan Beegal writes the story can be read as "autobiography, symbolist fiction, or metafiction" (Beegal) and while there are many ways to interpret this story, many of those interpretations deal with death in one fashion or another. When we look at Harry's circumstances, we see him facing not only his physical death but also the death of his life's dream. Death is part of life and Hemingway did not have a problem incorporating it into his stories. Harry watched the "world change; not just the events; although he had seen many of them and had watched the people, but he had been in it and he had watched it and it was his duty to write of it" (Hemingway 95). He became a man that understood that his life was going to end before he could achieve what he wanted in life. This sad realization causes readers to pause and consider what the implications might be in their lives. Harry's symbolic gangrene represents the rotting soul beneath the surface of his decaying skin. Harry is different when he comes to his painful realization. He says, "The marvelous thing is that it's painless. That's how you know when it starts" (Hemingway 82). Harry is dying but the amazing thing is that he is dying in flesh and in spirit. He sees how there can be no escaping death and he has accepted it almost too casually. Just like the loss of his writing career, he simply accepts it and does not choose to fight or worry. He knows he "would never do it, because each day of not writing, of comfort, of being that which he despised, dulled his ability and softened his will to work so that, finally, he did no work at all" (89). Death is striking Harry from all sides: his body, his career, and his relationship with his wife. The one thing he wanted but did not get is easily achieved by his wife. Things turn out well for her because things worked out so terribly for him. She benefits from his loss. She is like the hyena feeding off what was dying in him all along. Harry dies delusional. He is not consciousness at the time of his death and this state allows him to imagine his dream coming true. This is good for him because it brings a type of happiness to him that he has not experienced for some time and it makes his actual death less painful. In this way, Harry actually makes it to the mountaintop. We read, "And then he knew that there was where he was going" (104). Here we see ultimate triumph and failure. Harry knows the only way he will see the mountaintop is through the magic of death.

Death is one kind of struggle and while it may be the ultimate struggle in life, there are many other kinds of struggles that make life difficult. In fact, there are plenty of conflicts in life to keep many preoccupied until the time to worry about death does arrive. Life presents various situations where conflict is born and breeds. Most of those places are within the human mind and Hemingway knew this all to well. Men were a popular focus for the author. Robert Gajdusek observes, "Hemingway . . . consistently studied the multiple evasions and cowardices which have kept men . . . from committing themselves to an intimacy" (Gajdusek). Male characters often emerge as "unintegrated, unindividuated, and undeveloped boys or boy-men whose words must forever be hollow and false, their knowledge only partial" (Gajdusek). Seeing what war did to the inside and outside of people and experiencing it first-hand, he could write about conflict and loss easily. In "Soldier's Home," Krebs' struggle is fitting back into the society he left behind when he went to war. The primary problem is that he is changed and when he returns, he returns to nothing. He faces conflict from the moment he arrives home with the first revolving around the fact that he had returned so much later then the others who had served in the war. The townspeople think it is "ridiculous" (136) that he should be returning so late "years after the war was over" (136). Because of his late arrival, stories of the war were old and uninteresting. The town had "heard too many atrocity stories to be thrilled by actualities" (137). Krebs even attempts lying about the war to muster interest but that does not work. He lies twice and a "distaste for everything that had happened to him in the War set in because of the lies he had told" (137). Krebs is dealing with and outer and an inner conflict. The outer conflict, with those around him unable to relate to him is the least complicated of the conflicts while the inner conflict is the more disturbing. He wants to fit in and feel accepted but the lies make him feel disingenuous and he cannot continue. Krebs resumes normal activity but his life is empty and Hemingway reveals part of this with his writing style. The story is flat and lifeless. There is no excitement and certainly no feelings in the mood or tone of this tale. The tone of the story is vacant and the narrator's voice only supplies readers with facts. This flat writing style reflects Krebs flat-lining life and his approach to life after the war. Nothing seems very different to Krebs, except maybe the girls who are now women. His attitude toward them is distance. He likes looking at them but the were "too complicated' (138) and he did "not want to have to work" (138) to get one. Krebs is completely disassociated from everything, including his family. He feels incapable of loving and when he tells his mother he does not love anybody, we see his desire to live without any consequences of being alive. He did not want his life to be complicated and he wanted things to go smoothly and if that means letting his mother pray for him, then he will do it. This story is about a man unable to fulfill his role as a man because of the setback of war. Krebs is reverting into a world of nothing; he wants simplicity but the world is complicated for grown men. He wants to understand it more but he does not know how to get help or to whom to reach out. The realization is that Krebs' life is stuck in a vicious spin cycle. He is afraid… [END OF PREVIEW]

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