.. A key to understanding Hemingway can be found in the characters of his heroes and in their beliefs. The leading character appears in various roles in the many novels and short stories, although he is always the same type. Whether an ordinary soldier, smuggler or gambler, black man or journalist – he is a man scarred by experience. He has always been seriously wounded physically or mentally, either during war, in the sports ring, during his childhood or in the fight for existence. At some time or another something terrible has happened to him, and the memory constantly haunts him.
However strong and tough he seems, he is centrally a sick man. He must prove himself to himself: his strength and his courage are nothing but a victory over fear. Hemingway’s world is a world at war .. either in the literal sense or the unforgiving, brutal fight for existence. A hostile and unsympathetic world. Those who wish to survive must know how to kill. In The Old Man and the Sea, the old Cuban fisherman triumphs through the devoted determination of his fight with the great fish.
In the end, however, the sharks eat away his prey and deprive him of the reward for his sacrifice. The part played by women in Hemingway’s work is significant. He handles sex without being sensitive or finicky. His lovers have nothing in common either spiritually or intellectually, nor do they seek it in each other. They are not partners – not even enemies.
As a result their relationship is neither exalted or pitiful. It always has a flavor of rape or harlotry. The heroine is either a “man-eater”, an aggravating, even dangerous element in a man’s world, or a passive creature, completely submissive to man, a willing instrument in the pouring out of his desire. These types of women are found in The Macomber Affair’s Margot, and A Farewell to Arms’ Catherine respectively. Hemingway’s women seem unreal and hollow to the reader but they are how the author perceives American females.
Behind his portrayals of characters, his reports, and his fiction there is the beat of a suffering heart and the fight of a wounded soul – – the heart and soul of Hemingway himself. The hero of a Hemingway novel is Hemingway. His life unfolds to the reader and explains the enigma in his literature. Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. A small town close to Chicago where Hemingway’s parent’s were members of high society. His father, Clarence Edmunds Hemingway, was a busy doctor who enjoyed hunting and fishing.
He took more pride in the animals he killed than in the patients he saved. Ernest’s mother, Grace, was interested in religion and music, two interests she was unable to pass on to her son. Unsatisfied with life at home, ( later Hemingway remarked that the best schooling for a writer was an unhappy childhood),Ernest ran away from home twice before finding his love .. sports. He participated in boxing, swimming, and football, excelling in all three.
His thirst for action was not quenched, however, until he joined the Italian army with the Red Cross. Hemingway’s service experiences later became the basis for many short stories and novels. In fact his injury shortly after joining the Red Cross became the story line of A Farewell to Arms. Two weeks before his nineteenth birthday, a grenade landed a few feet from Hemingway on one of his daily trips to the trenches. He was severely wounded.
When he came to, Ernest hauled a screaming comrade onto his back and began dragging himself away. An enemy spotlight found him, however, and rained machine gun fire down on him. When he regained consciousness he was on a stretcher and his comrade was dead. This is exactly what happens to lieutenant Frederick Henry in the novel, and it is the point of the story where he begins to fall apart. On his return to America after the war, Hemingway suffered from insomnia and horrible nightmares. Attempting to rid his mind of war memories, he wrote about his experiences in many short stories and best novels. He described his horror of war, never making it sound wonderful or full of glory, on the other hand he never brings up any complaint or protest against it.
It is Hemingway’s belief that the horrors of war are unavoidable (Hotchner 117). The travels of Hemingway are another source of influence on the author’s work. Many, in fact most, of his short stories and novels take place in a foreign country. France, particularly Paris, Spain, and Africa are Hemingway’s treasured spots. The author always seemed to come back to America, but left after only a short while, being disgusted with the society. “It is interesting that Hemingway became the best chronicler of the lost generation, for he hated them and took no part in it.” (Hotchner 188) Perhaps the one situation that had the most effect on Ernest Hemingway was his father committing suicide.
Ernest had never had a good relationship with father. In the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, the hero Jordan touches on the subject of his father’s suicide and says: “I’ll never forget how sick it made me the first time I knew he was a .. coward.” Jordan continues: “If he wasn’t a coward he would have stood up to that woman and had not let her bully him. I wonder what I would have been like if he had married a different woman.” This passage, as well as several domineering women characters in Hemingway’s work, makes you question how he felt towards his mother. Ernest Hemingway’s literature is work in which happiness is short lived, caused temporarily by alcohol then destroyed by the reality of death.
He did not glorify love affairs, but make them cheap and unemotional. Wealth is described as evil and corrupting in his novels. Though not delightful stories, the author makes the reader think and question values in a different way. Hemingway looked down upon American society during the 1920’s, yet he himself was overcome by denial in the end. Though the unsympathetic world, and diseased mind, destroyed Ernest Hemingway’s flesh, his heart and soul were placed upon the page and will never be defeated. Bibliography Works Cited Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway Selected Letters.
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1981. Hemingway, Ernest. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1987 Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms.
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1957. Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1968. Hemingway, Ernest.
The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., 1980. Hotchner, A.E. Papa Hemingway; A Personal Memoir. New York: Random House Inc., 1966. Kraus, Michael.
“World War I.” Colliers Encyclopedia. 1974 ed. Lania, Leo. Hemingway: A Pictorial Biography. New York: The Viking Press, 1961.
Madden, David. A Pocketful of Prose, Vintage Short Fiction. Vol. 2. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1996.
Tames, Richard. The 1920s. New York: Franklin Watts Inc., 1991. White, William. By-line: Ernest Hemingway; Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967. Biographies.