Hemingway and Modernishm

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Modernists were authors that broke away from many traditional standards of writing during the post World War I time period of the Lost Generation. “T.S. Eliot stated that, the inherited mode of ordering a literary work, which assumed a relatively coherent and stable social order, could not accord with the ‘immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.’ Major works of modernist fiction, then, subvert the basic conventions of earlier prose fiction by breaking up the narrative continuity, departing from the standard ways of representing characters, and violating traditional syntax and coherence of narrative language by the use of stream of consciousness and other innovative modes of narration” (Abrams A Glossary of Literary Terms). In The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway uses theme, structure, style, symbols and metaphors to “break up the narrative continuity,” “depart from standard ways of representing characters,” “violate the traditional syntax and coherence of narrative language,” and represents an “immense panorama of futility and anarchy.” Because Hemingway uses these methods to break away from traditional standards, he is therefore a modernist.

One of the aspects of modernism is “departing from standard ways of representing characters.” In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway breaks away from the standard representations of characters, most drastically seen in the character of Lady Brett Ashley. First off, this woman has a man’s name, initially suggesting that she is not a ‘normal’ lady. Brett also has traits that are not generally feminine, but rather masculine. For example, Brett is extremely independent, and she tends to have a great deal of power over every man she meets. She is always the dominant one in her relationships, and never commits to any one man, rather she prefers independence. She is manipulating and causes tension between other men, much like traditional male characters. Unlike traditional female roles, she is not submissive or ladylike, rather she goes after what she wants; Brett is the pursuer, not the one to wait around for what she desires. One example of this can be found in chapter XVI, when Brett is confessing to Jake that she needs to have Romero, a young Spanish bullfighter. She says to Jake, “I’m a goner. I’m mad about the Romero boy. I’m in love with him, I think…I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to do something I really want to. I’ve lost my self respect.” “What do you want me to do?” (Jake)

“Come on,” Brett said. “Let’s go and find him.”… “Ask him to come over and have a drink.” (Brett)
“Not yet. He’ll come over.” (Jake)
“I can’t look at him.”
“He’s nice to look at,” I said.
“I’ve always done just what I wanted.” (Brett)
“I know.” (Hemingway, 183-184)

This is a perfect example of how Hemingway “departs from standard ways of representing characters,” in that Brett is displayed as a woman who acts unlike a traditional female character. In this instance, Brett is more concerned with getting Romero, the 19 year old Spanish bullfighter, than she is about anything else. She admits that she always gets what she wants, giving readers textual proof that Hemingway is indeed a modernist, as his way of representing the main female in this novel is more masculine than feminine, a representation that is clearly not traditional.

Another characteristic of modernists is that they “violate the traditional syntax and coherence of narrative language.” The entire style of Hemingway’s novel represents the ‘iceberg theory of minimalism.’ Hemingway demonstrates this minimalist theory in that he only gives readers the “tip of the iceberg”, so to speak. Instead of describing characters or events in a detailed, complex manner, Hemingway gives away as little information as possible in words, but underneath the surface of this minimal way of writing lays an entire iceberg of meaning and depth. For instance, Hemingway’s character, Jake, was wounded in World War...
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