William Faulkner and John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway Research Paper

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¶ … William Faulkner and John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway was a member of what Gertrude Stein termed "the lost generation" -- disillusioned, young men returning from World War I. Pulled out of a 1900s United States populated with patriotic, naive families and young men and women with delusions of heroism, American soldiers came back to the United States haunted by visions of war and unable to reassemble with their contemporaries. Hemingway was no different. Although he was unable to join the United States Army because of vision problems, the young author served in the Red Cross Ambulance core after leaving a short newspaper career. (He served as a journalist again before pursuing fiction after the war.) but the ambulance core was not much milder than active combat. The shocks Hemingway received from seeing the wounds and remains of fallen soldiers never left him. Paired with the own wound he received, these traumas left the young author scarred at the end of the war. In fact, Hemingway became an expatriate, living in Paris for much of his life. The disillusionment that Hemingway experienced ran from the confines of his own mind onto the page. Although this is best articulated in his short story "Soldier's Home," the theme of disillusionment in and after war can be traced through Hemingway's other works, most notably his novels a Farewell to Arms and the Sun Also Rises.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on William Faulkner and John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway Assignment

While Hemingway's other novels and short stories use symbolism and tone to suggest the hopelessness and suspension of life after the war, "A Soldier's Home" brilliantly and directly discusses these sentiments. A symbol of the lost generation, Krebs returns to neither fanfare nor scrutiny, but simply business as usual. His desire to talk about the atrocities of war is muted by the townspeople who had "heart too many atrocity stories to be thrilled by actualities." In order to be accepted or even acknowledged, he must lie, and the lying causes him to "have a reaction against the war and against lying about it." Immediately upon his return to the small Kansas town, Krebs is established as an outsider, one who must change his own behavior, impulses, and desires in order to be accepted by others. This image of Krebs as a lost outsider continues through his interactions with his own family members and his observation of women. Lost even within his own family, Krebs is seen as an object of worry by his mother, an object of concern by his father, and a hero by his sister. In each relationship, Krebs is viewed as a stereotype, not an individual. As a member of the lost generation, an outcast among those who did not experience the war, Krebs is seen as lazy, rude, and a symbol of the world of adulthood. Similarly, from afar, he "like[s] the girls that were walking along the other side of the street," but has no desire to seek out female companionship, expresses that he would not know how to talk to a girl, and is unimpressed when his mother suggests that he date. The girls, with their short haircuts and group mingling, seem foreign to him when he returns. Thus, his hometown, his family, and the social requirements of courtship and friendship are al strange and confusing to Krebs when he returns from the war. The disillusionment Krebs experiences causes him to lie again at the end of the story; he decides to pursue a normal life, hope that it will "go smoothly," regardless of his disillusionment.

Though it may be the work of fiction in which Hemingway wrote most directly about the disillusionment of young soldiers returning from the war and the lost generation, "A Soldier's Home" was not the author's only work dealing with the theme. A second work primarily about war, a Farewell to Arms, also presents the theme, this time from the perspective of a soldier who is still serving in the war. Unlike "A Soldier's Home," however, a Farewell to Arms allows the reader to experience Frederick Henry's disillusionment with the main character.

Like Hemingway, Henry is an expatriate American serving as an ambulance driver in the Italian Army. The novel opens with several contradictory images that set the stage for a world of disillusionment where nothing matters: the vulgar joking of his Italian comrades, pious words of the friendly priest, beauty of the Italian countryside, devastation of the war, whorehouses, and constant reminders of his status as a foreigner. In order to survive the boredom of winter, Henry travels across Italy, and returns to more disillusionment, this time the disillusionment of Romance.

Perhaps based on Hemingway's own love interest during the war, Henry meets the nurse Catherine Barkley, a woman his friend Rinaldi is infatuated with. The two begin a delusional war romance almost immediately. Though there is nothing but a physical attraction between them, Catherine, suffering from the loss of her fiance who was killed in the war effort, quickly decides to operate under the delusion that they are madly in love. Only a few days after their initial meeting, Catherine demands that he notify her of absences, stay with her forever, and declare his love for her. Though he at first thinks "she is a little crazy," Henry, because of his own displacement and delusions, soon decides to cooperate with her charade, admitting that "it was all right if she was," crazy because he "did not care what [he] was getting into" since "this was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards." He had to "pretend [he] was playing for money or playing for some stakes." Even Catherine admits that the love is a delusion when she says, "this is a rotten game we play."

Both Catherine and Frederick Henry are affected by war, and both are so disillusioned by the war and its effects -- Catherine's dead fiance and Henry's displacement -- that they enter into a disillusioned war romance in which there is no real love or affection. By establishing this relationship, Hemingway repeats the theme of "A Soldier's Home" by allowing the reader to see the disillusionment of soldiers even as they fight the war. Even normal practices, like courtship, cannot be attained by men and women who cannot help but view everything else as pale in comparison to devastation of the war.

But Hemingway takes this theme even further as he continues to follow Catherine and Henry's relationship. Though they enter the romance under the disillusion of love, real love eventually blooms between them. After Henry is injured, Catherine requests a transfer to the hospital where he is being housed. There, they spend months together, sleep together almost every night, and grow in their affection. Though Henry offers marriage, Catherine declines saying she "couldn't be any more married." Soon, Catherine becomes pregnant, and for the first time in the novel, both feel a sense of belonging with each other and their new family, even planning to have a home together when Henry returns from the front, where he is being sent. Though Henry removes to the warfront, a series of horrific scenes and near death moments cause him to defect, disillusioned by the war. He returns to Catherine and, for a few more months, the two live happily together, but both Catherine and the baby are eventually killed in childbirth. The final scene of the novel leaves Henry walking without purpose in the rain.

In what could have been an uplifting story of a man leaving the devastation of war to live with his true love, Hemingway weaves themes of soldiers' disillusionment with war together to suggest that the devastation of war trumps all other happiness. Catherine and Henry are thrown together in a disillusioned romance because of the war. Even when the romance becomes legitimate, horrors of the war keep them from marrying. In the end, Henry is left just a disillusioned, if not more so, than he was at the beginning of the book -- a foreigner without position, family, or acceptance in a foreign country. By allowing the reader to painfully experience one soldier's disillusionment, Hemingway establishes his theme of the disillusionment caused by war.

Though it is not a novel primarily about war, this theme continues to be paramount in a third Hemingway work of fiction, the Sun Also Rises. In the novel, World War I veteran Jake Barns, now a Parisian journalist, suffers both emotional and physical effects of the war. Unlike a traditional plot-driven novel, the book merely recounts the exploits of Jake and his friends. Through these exploits, Hemingway establishes the theme of disillusionment after war through the character of Jake and his inability to return to normalcy after the war.

Both physically and mentally, Jake's experience in the war left him wounded. Throughout the Sun Also Rises, Jake's physical wound, which left him impotent, has inspired further mental wounds, specifically his inability to become involved romantically with Lady Brett Ashley, who remains his friend, but refuses to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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