Term Paper: Hemingway Is Classified

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[. . .] Hemingway perceives the world in these terms and links his characters directly to nature through underlying psychological forces which s********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************iscellany of stories and fragments, but actually the parts hung together and produced a definite effect. There were two distinct series of pieces which alternated with one another: one a set of brief and brutal sketches of police shootings, bullfight crises, hanging of criminals, and incidents of the war; and the other a set of stories dealing in its principal sequence with the growing-up of an American boy against a landscape of idyllic Michigan, but interspersed also with glimpses of American soldiers returning home (Wilson 17).

Wilson believes that the war was intended to be the key for the whole book, and the brutality of the war is contrasted with the more idyllic and peaceful scenes of the boy at home in the States. Later, however, the boy turns up as a soldier in the Italian army and is shot in the spine by machine-gun fire. Wilson finds that this indicates a more fundamental relationship between the stories in the two interlocked series in the book:

The shooting of Nick in the war does not really connect two different worlds: has he not found in the butchery abroad the same world that he knew back in Michigan? Was not life in the Michigan woods equally destructive and cruel? (Wilson 17).

Hemingway's macho image has caused many critics to misunderstand elements of Hemingway's world and his fiction, imposing ideas of masculinity and machismo on the man and his work rather than reading his own meaning for such ideas in his writings. For instance, as Alan Holder notes, critics tend to see Hemingway's women characters as one of two types -- "either that of the ***** who threatens to rob the Hemingway male of his strength and integrity, or that of the dream girl, a mindless creature who makes no demands upon her man and who exists only to satisfy his (sexual) needs" (Holder 103). Clearly, the woman in "Hills Like White Elephants" does not fall into either category, though there is some hint that the male in the story views her as a sexual object, something which Hemingway as narrator depicts as insensitive. The macho pose evident in the above-noted dichotomy regarding women mitigates against real relationships, but Carlos Baker points out that there is a definite desire for domesticity in many Hemingway stories. If there is any short-sightedness in Hemingway on the subject of women, it shows in the fact that the point-of-view in his stories is always male, observing the women from the outside and reacting to their nature according to how the observer views women (Baker, Hemingway: The Writer as Artist 136-139).

This is apparent in "Hills Like White Elephants" in the way the two people are introduced: "The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building" (Hemingway, "Hills Like White elephants" 211). He is "the American," and she is simply "the girl with him." However, in the course of the story, there is a shift as the man remains unnamed and the girl becomes "Jig," as the man calls her at one point. She has more identity than does he by the end of the story.

Bloom describes the characters and shows how Hemingway has more regard for the woman than for the man. The man is a "rootless, hedonistic American" who is "notable as much for his selfishness as his insensitivity" (Bloom 35). Wagner echoes this and calls the man a representative of "an advanced stage of the insensitivity to women's needs" (Wagner, Ernest Hemingway 105). Bloom notes of the woman that she is "Far more imaginative and emotional than her companion... [and] also much more vulnerable" (Bloom 35). Bloom further points out, "Hemingway refers to her primarily as the 'girl,' rather than the 'woman' to emphasize her powerlessness" (Bloom 35). Even the nickname "Jig" emphasizes her youth.

Critics also differ on the nature of the impasse between the man and the woman, of course. Many see the issue in the terms described by Wagner when he says the story shows "the rational male view set against the less articulate but more emotional feminine view" (Wagner, Hemingway and Faulkner 66-67). In itself, this comment reflects the point-of-view often ascribed to Hemingway by critics who fail to differentiate between the man and his characters. Wagner is a woman, and it may be that she sees Hemingway as many feminist critics do. Hays notes that such critics "frequently condemn the writer for the behavior of both his characters and himself, not as artist, but as macho soldier, lion hunter, and four-times-married man" (Hays 58). Hays further writes,

It may well be that Hemingway was accurately describing aspects of his own behavior in his fiction, but the artist should not be reviled for the accuracy of his depiction of real-life situations, nor should he be confused with his fictional characters (Hays 58).

Still, Hemingway continued to draw on autobiographical material for his work, as can be seen in his shot novel The Old Man and the Sea (1952), in which the character of Santiago fights to maintain his role as fisherman even as his abilities wane and his body betrays him:

So Hemingway's sense of his failing powers gave his book power. Such a vision is necessarily short-lived, depending as it does upon having come to terms with the end of something. What was ending was not potency but creativity. Writing was no longer a response to experience but to the problems of writing itself (Wyatt 317).

Santiago represents Hemingway's vision of the human condition and of what humans should take from this life:

Santiago has found his greatest strength and courage and dignity and nobility and love, and in this he expresses Hemingway's view of the ultimate tragic irony of man's fate: that only through the isolated individualism and the pride which drive him beyond his true place in life does man develop the qualities and the wisdom which teach him the sin of such individualism and pride and which bring him the deepest understanding of himself and of his place in the world (Burhans 451).

Santiago represents Hemingway's own greatest fear, "the fear of passivity, the nightmare, a recurrent nightmare for Ernest Hemingway, in which the individual is deprived of his manhood by becoming an object rather than originator of action" (Cooperman 216). How one lives is always more important to Hemingway than how long one lives, as in the short story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" in which the title character must learn that very lesson from the hunter who embodies Hemingway's code:

Thus the reader is permitted to see Robert Wilson as the complete hunter, as a man who lives by one code and one code only, and who applies this code to both animals and people simply because he knows no other way to live and be honest with himself and with his moral philosophy (Bell 78).

From the youthful Nick Adams to the elderly Santiago, the characters of Hemingway reflect aspects of Hemingway's personality or his deep-seated concerns. This is true of the characters in his short stories and in his novels, and while there is usually not a one-to-one relationship, there are elements of Hemingway clearly visible in the masculine world of his characters and in the problems they confront. Reading his stories and novels takes the individual into a specific world, a world where the language shapes a vision of how people live, how they should live, and how they are to be remembered. The language seems simple but is really quite complex in the way it builds an image and sustains it.

Works Cited

Aldridge, John W. "The Sun Also Rises?

Sixty Years Later." The Sewanee Review XCIV (2)(Spring 1986), 337?45.

Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969.

Baker, Carlos. Hemingway: The Writer as Artist. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956.

Bell, H.H., Jr. "Hemingway's 'The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.'" The Explicator 32(9)(May 19740, 78.

Bloom, Harold. Bloom's Major Short Story Writers: Ernest Hemingway. New York: Chelsea House, 1999.

Broer, Lawrence R. Hemingway's Spanish Tragedy. University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1973.

Burhans, Clinton S., Jr. "The Old Man and the Sea: Hemingway's Tragic Vision of Man." American Literature (March 1959?January 1960), 446?55.

Cooperman, Stanley. "Hemingway and Old Age: Santiago as Priest of Time." College English (December 1965), 216?20.

Cowley, Malcolm. "Mr. Papa and the Parricides." In Ernest Hemingway, Harold Bloom (ed.), 161-172. New York: Chelsea House, 1985.

Cuddon, J.A. Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Pengin, 1997.

Ganzel, Dewey. "A Farewell to Arms: The Danger of Imagination." The Sewanee Review LXXIX (4)(Autumn 1971), 576?97.

Glaser, William A. "A Farewell to Arms." The Sewanee Review LXXIV (2)(Spring 1966), 452?69.

Griffin, Peter. Along with Youth: Hemingway, the Early Years. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Hardy, R.E. And J.G. Cull. Hemingway:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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