Honors American Literature
24 November 2014 Influence of Hemingway’s life upon his works
Some would say that Ernest Hemingway was born with writing in his blood. From the time he spent working on his high school paper to his first job on The Kansas City
Star, Hemingway was developing and perfecting his writing style. He speaks fondly of his time working at The Star and credits his mentor with developing his style. One in particular, C.G. “Pete” Wellington, provided Hemingway with the writing style of a newspaper: “use short sentences. Use short paragraphs. Use vigorous English, not forgetting to strive for smoothness. Be positive, not negative”(Boyd 7). Hemingway was later quoted describing them as “ the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing.
I’ve never forgotten them”(7). No matter who is responsible for its development,
Hemingway’s style is one of his most unique attributes. Deep and pensive, his writing reflects what he experienced over the course of his life. He used his personal experiences, especially those from war, to add a different level of complexity to his novels, especially
A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls,and The Sun Also Rises.
Although he was rejected by the army due to an eye injury, Ernest Hemingway was greatly impacted by war (Bloom 7). He joined the Red cross effort by driving ambulances throughout Italy during World War I. He was injured by shrapnel during this
time and spent time in Milan, Italy, recovering. Hemingway was decorated by the Italian
Army for the bravery he exhibited during this time. The injuries he sustained prevented him from being directly involved in World War II; however, Ernest Hemingway served as a War correspondent. He followed soldiers through many parts of Europe, particularly
France, and reported on notable events such as the Battle of the Bulge and the Liberation of Paris (9). Bloom even makes a point to note “ Hemingway became something of a legend, joining the fighting as much as reporting about it”(9). This quote leads one to believe that Hemingway did not let his injuries prevent him from supporting a cause about which he felt strongly.
Hemingway’s World War I and World War II experiences are clearly influential in his writing of A Farewell to Arms. The novel explores the life of Frederic Henry, an ambulance driver in Italy ‒ Just like Hemingway– during World War I. Similar to
Hemingway’s experience, Fredric spends time recovering from an injury in a Milan hospital (1013). By placing his character in some of the exact situations that he himself was placed, Hemingway makes it known that Frederic Henry is supposed to embody
Ernest Hemingway. The novel delves into not only the physically consequences of war, but also the emotional tolls. Frederic Henry recalls his experiences and “. . . reveals a desire for a whole and perfect retelling of the past” (Dodman 1). His traumatic experiences prevent him from doing this, however, as his experiences taint his retelling of the war.
Some critics argue that the authenticity of the wartime situations portrayed in A
Farewell to Arms is compromised because they are being retold by someone traumatized
by the experience. One notes that “. . . the novel’s ‘enforced silences’ the disruptive workings of traumatic memories aggressively imposing themselves on the survivor”
(Dodman 2). Frederic is unable to create the “perfect retelling” he desires because he is so emotionally scarred by the experience. Hemingway uses A Farewell to Arms to show the psychological effects that war has on its participants. As LaCapra so aptly states:
Certain wounds, both personal and historical, cannot simply heal without leaving scars or residues in the present; there may even be a sense in which they have to remain as open wounds even if one strives to counteract their tendency to swallow all of existence and incapacitate one as an agent in the present. (qtd. in Dodman 6) Allowing for his character to have moments of obviously challenging recollection,
Hemingway presents an opportunity for the reader to figuratively “read between the lines.” Through these moments of weakness, Hemingway’s writing evokes a feeling of pity within the reader and allows for one to experience some of the emotional tolls of war. This feeling within is carried over in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. One critic writes of a conversation between Hemingway and his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Hemingway makes a profound statement during this engagement: “. . . But when you get the damned hurt use it don’t cheat with it” (Carter 1). Hemingway uses the same “hurt” that he speaks of here in many of his works.The story revolves around Robert Jordan, a
SpanishAmerican man who travels to join the antifascist forces during the war in Spain.
Hemingway pays close attention to detail, writing accurately and unbiasedly to portray the war. He describes his struggle to do so with this in a letter to Ivan Kashkin:
in stories about the [Spanish Civil] war I try to show all the different sides of it, taking it slowly and honestly and examining it from many sides . . . It is very complicated and difficult to write about truly . . . I would like to be able to write understandingly about both deserters and heroes, cowards and brave men, traitors and men who are not capable of being traitors. We learned a lot about all such people. (SL qtd. in Carter 4)
Statements such as this one give the reader accurate insight into how profoundly complex the Spanish Civil War, like most wars, truly was. Fought from 19361939, the Spanish
Civil War was fought between the Republican (Democratic) and Nationalist (Fascist) parties of Spain. Ultimately, the rebel Nationalists were victorious, resulting in their dominance within the Spanish politics for the next thirty six years.
Naturally inquisitive, Hemingway immediately began reporting on the Spanish
Civil War. He used many of his experiences from “the first media war” (Faber, qtd. in
Carter 3) as components of the setting and plot of For Whom the Bell Tolls. As Carter states “. . . For Whom the Bell Tolls is perhaps one of the truest war novels ever written, a conclusion which is largely due to the fact that Hemingway does not present simple characters, simple problems, or simple answers”(4). Turning the Spanish Civil War into a
“simple” war for the sake of the novel would have done the novel and those who read it a disservice. Hemingway portrays war exactly as it is: chaotic and not always clean cut.
While the historical accuracy is remarkable, it is thoughts of Robert Jordan (the novel’s main character) that makes For Whom the Bell Tolls a signature Hemingway novel.
Robert is attached to a loyalist (Republican) regime and specializes in explosives and
destroying pertinent structures. In the novel, he is tasked with the detonation of a key bridge: a task he knows he ultimately will not be able to survive. Robert struggles to accept his impending doom, but refuses to admit that his mission is one that is basically suicide. He is adamant in his viewing suicide as cowardly and selfish, an ironic statement in light of Hemingway’s suicide just over twenty years later. However, after extensive fighting, he has a profound realization which is aptly described by Carter as follows: “He
[Robert] is confronted with the realizations that the arbitrary butchery of war is not limited to one side, and that truly, there are no absolutes of good and bad, or right and wrong, in this or perhaps any war” (45). Hemingway’s main goal in his writing of
For Whom the Bell Tolls was to accurately show the difficulty of something with which every Spaniard had to deal: selecting a side in the war. The emotional trials and triumphs of war are felt by all, even those who do not physically fight. This is especially true of the
Spanish Civil War, as it was the first war where attacks were staged upon large urban areas, thus killing large masses of civilians (2). Just as in A Farewell to Arms,
Hemingway ensures the events and struggles of the time are aptly discussed and accurately portrayed.
The third and final Hemingway classic that properly divulges an aspect of the famous author’s style is The Sun Also Rises.The novel explores the aftermath of war on both its participants and its observers. The main character, Jake Barnes, is left physically maimed after his job reporting on World War I resulted in an injury. He has been deemed impotent and can no longer express his love to anyone. He is unable to come to terms with his injury, as he desires a relationship with Brett Ashley, the lead female character.
Brett has been married twice since the war and been in multiple relationships. The characters of The Sun Also Rises represent what is called by Hemingway’s friend
Gertrude Stein “ the lost generation (Oliver 12). The lost generation is defined by critics as “ the generation of young American men and women who came to maturity during the postwar period that followed the end of World War I in 1918” (Seidel 1). This generation was skeptical of American society, as they felt that people were forgetting the war and as a result them in an attempt to return to normal. Many of these young people flocked to foreign countries such as Paris, the setting of The Sun Also Rises (1).
Hemingway uses Jakes disability as a way of expressing his own internal frustrations. As a member of the “lost generation,” Hemingway experienced the feeling of neglect expressed in the statement from Oliver. He felt first hand the struggles of war and simply could not watch the nation keep forgetting about the efforts of him and his fellow soldiers. Hemingway evokes a certain feeling of deep thought when he quotes a
King James Bible passage from the book of Ecclesiastes I: 47:
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever … The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose … the wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits … all the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come thither they return again. (Oliver 1) This quote helps the reader to understand Hemingway’s thought process and emotion.
His goal in writing the novel was to convey the feeling of loss: loss of innocence, loss of
confidence, and loss of selfworth. Many victims of war were “physically and psychologically damaged” (Seidel 1) as a result of the experiences. Much like his other novels, Hemingways depiction of the setting Spain and France is remarkably detailed and accurate. One scene involves attending a bullfight and the famous “running of the bulls” in Pamplona, Spain. The depiction of this event in particular is regarded as one of the most accurate and detailed of the time. Hemingway uses his main character, Jake, and his struggles as a way to articulate Hemingways thoughts and emotions relating to the consequences of war.
As he does a veteran of World War I, Hemingway saw his fair share of loss and tragedy. However, he did not allow these experiences to define him. He did not let the, at times, overwhelming memories of WWI dictate his life. He, instead, chooses to channel this hurt and grief and use it in his writing. Hemingway’s life experiences are reflected through his writing of all three novels discussed. In some, such as A Farewell to Arms, the intended interpretation is blatantly obvious to the reader; while in others such as The
Sun Also Rises, the emotion portrayed cannot be felt unless one has a clearly knowledge of the time in which it was written. A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and
The Sun Also Rises, are all perfect examples of Hemingway’s emotional interpretations of monumental events.
Jones, Veda Boyd. "Hemingway, Ernest." In Bloom, Harold, ed. Ernest Hemingway,
Bloom 's BioCritiques. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 2001. Bloom 's
Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 23 Nov. 2014
Dodman, Trevor. " 'Going All to Pieces ': A Farewell to Arms as Trauma Narrative."
Twentieth Century Literature, 52, no. 3 (Fall 2006): 249–274. Quoted as " 'Going
All to Pieces ': A Farewell to Arms as Trauma Narrative" in Bloom, Harold, ed. A
Farewell to Arms, Bloom 's Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: Chelsea
Bloom, Harold. Ernest Hemingway 's A Farewell to Arms. New York: Chelsea House,
Carter, Natalie. " 'Always something of it remains ': sexual trauma in Ernest Hemingway 's
For Whom the Bell Tolls." War, Literature & The Arts 25.1 (2013). LitFinder.
Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
Seidel, Michael. "Sun Also Rises, The." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2014. Web.
4 Dec. 2014.
Oliver, Charles M. "The Sun Also Rises." Critical Companion to Ernest Hemingway: A
Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On
File, Inc., 2007. Bloom 's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 15 Dec. 2014
Cited: Jones, Veda Boyd. "Hemingway, Ernest." In Bloom, Harold, ed. Ernest Hemingway, Bloom 's BioCritiques. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 2001. Bloom 's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 23 Nov. 2014 Dodman, Trevor. " 'Going All to Pieces ': A Farewell to Arms as Trauma Narrative." Twentieth Century Literature, 52, no. 3 (Fall 2006): 249–274. Quoted as " 'Going All to Pieces ': A Farewell to Arms as Trauma Narrative" in Bloom, Harold, ed. A Farewell to Arms, Bloom 's Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: Chelsea House, 2009. Bloom, Harold. Ernest Hemingway 's A Farewell to Arms. New York: Chelsea House, 1996. Carter, Natalie. " 'Always something of it remains ': sexual trauma in Ernest Hemingway 's For Whom the Bell Tolls." War, Literature & The Arts 25.1 (2013). LitFinder. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. Seidel, Michael. "Sun Also Rises, The." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2014. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. Oliver, Charles M. "The Sun Also Rises." Critical Companion to Ernest Hemingway: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom 's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 15 Dec. 2014