Essay, Research Paper: Hemmingway

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The central theme in Hemingway's work is heroism. Most of his novels are not
primarily studies of death or simply researches into the lost generation. They
are essentially the portrayal of a hero, the man who by force of some
extraordinary quality sets the standards for those around him. Hemingway has
always kept four subjects in his mind when writing. These four subjects which
have always fascinated Hemingway are fishing, hunting, bullfighting, and war, in
which all have shown some type of international aspects. But most of Hemingway's
novels are the studies death. They are a portrayal of a hero, but also a heroes
struggle and perception of death. What truly influences Hemingway's writings,
more over to the portrayal of a hero is the notion of death. To be a hero means
to dare more than other men, to expose oneself to greater dangers, and therefore
more greatly to risk the possibilities of death and defeat. (Connolly, p.226)
Hemingway said, "My favorite characters are men who deal in death and
accept its risks". To understand why Hemingway revolves his novels around
the concept of death, one must look at his own life and how the meaning of death
affected Hemingway himself. In 1928 Hemingway's father Edmonds Hemingway
committed suicide. It is said that he had much bad luck, and was not all of it
his own. Many thought that Hemingway's next theme would actually be fear.
Through out Hemingway's childhood he remained unhappy. He was only compatible on
the surface between his parents. His mother nudged him toward music, preferably
church music. His father put a fishing rod in his hand at the age of three and a
rifle at ten. In Hemingway's first novel In Our Time, shows of Hemingway's own
struggle with his parents through the eyes of Nick Adams. For example, in one of
Hemingway's short stories from In Our Time it reads: "Your mother wants you
to come and see her," the doctor said. "I want to go with you,"
Nick said. ". . . I know where there's black squirrels." "All
right," said his father. "Let's go there." These last lines from
the chapter, "The Doctor and the Doctor's wife" from, In Our Time,
show how Hemingway's struggling relationship with both parents was a struggle
for him to choose between his mother with music, or his father with fishing and
hunting. (Baker, p.29) In the novel of, In Our Time, Hemingway creates the
character of Nick Adams in order to depict himself. Nick's youth is wild and
free, just as Hemingway himself lived and led a life of a vagrant, coming face
to face with violence and evil on the road. Nick Adams spends his summers in
Michigan among the Indians, where he sees life in the raw. Just as Nick sees
life in the raw so to does Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway loving neither his family
nor school ran away twice from home. He led a life of a vagrant where he worked
on farms, washed dishes in restaurants, and hopped on freight trains. Nick who
is in fact the reflection of Hemingway witnesses a doctor-father perform a
Caesarian operation with a jack knife. Nick sees an Indian girl with brown legs,
flat belly, and hard little breasts, which initiates him sexually at a very
young age. Nick also cuts a freshly caught trout into pieces and uses the chunks
as bait to catch more trout. He is living in a savage world of sacrificed
animals. These are the years of apprenticeship for a boy who wants to be strong
yet has weaknesses, which is specifically an equivocal attitude toward his
father. Nick who is a portrayal of Hemingway is grateful to the doctor for the
rifle and hunting lessons, but he resents his father's weaknesses toward his
mother and his conventional ideas about sex. (Waldmeir, p.66) Hemingway in his
writing uses a particular hard style to tell hard stories. He depicts characters
in his stories such as bloodied prize fighters, hired killers, disemboweled bull
fighters, crippled soldiers, hunters of wild animals, and deep sea fisherman.
Hemingway portrayed his characters as heroes, but they all in someway dealt with
the perception of death. Hemingway himself said, "My favorite characters
are men who deal in death and accept its risks". To understand why
Hemingway wrote about death in his writings, one must try to understand how the
events in Hemingway's life formed this style and temperament, which gave birth
to this obsession of death. (Leff, p.54) Because Hemingway's relationship with
his parents was not good, it caused him to run away from home twice. Hemingway
then became a vagrant on the American road. After living as a vagrant for a
couple of years, the U.S. in 1917 entered World War I. Hemingway tried to
enlist, but was rejected because of a bad eye. But why would Hemingway enlist
and put himself in war. Many Americans would pray that they would not get
themselves drafted into the war. And yet even though Hemingway was not drafted,
he voluntarily enlisted, and was lucky they did not accept him because of a bad
eye. But that didn't stop Hemingway from going to Europe in World War I. He
decided to volunteer as an ambulance driver with the American Red Cross. He
basically put himself into bloody battles where he could of gotten himself
killed. Hemingway managed to get himself severely injured, for which the
Italians honored him with the Italian Al Valore Militare medal. Over a hundred
steel fragments were taken out of his leg. When his leg was almost blown off
Hemingway said, "I died then". It almost appears as if Hemingway wrote
about characters that in some way or another deal with death because Hemingway
himself wanted to die. (Baldwin, p.657) After the war in Europe was over
Hemingway returned to Key West, Florida. There he wrote several other books
which included, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, and Green Hills of
Africa. But it seemed that Hemingway felt dissatisfied about himself. In Africa
he hunted with very rich people who were dull, drank too much, and played too
much backgammon. Hemingway himself had drunk too much. He later became depressed
primarily because of his two failed marriages. But in 1940 at Cheyenne, Wyoming
he remarried writer Martha Gellhorn. Together they took a trip to China and then
settled in Cuba. After a while some signs of suicide were becoming apparent. In
1942 Hemingway offered his yacht "Pilar" to the United States Navy, in
which he volunteered to serve as a one man suicide squadron. Hemingway wanted to
cruise by himself to attract enemy submarines, then when one of them stopped
him, he would blow up the submarines and himself. The Navy refused to allow him
to do that. Hemingway again showed signs of suicide and death. Clearly
volunteering his own self to attract enemy submarines, and to sacrifice his own
life just to do the U.S. Navy a favor, showed that Hemingway was on a breach to
die. In Hemingway's writings about death he resorts to using vast symbols rather
than metaphors. As Baker says, "A world is not wholly without values when
it recognizes esthetic values. The writer, like the hunter and the soldier,
respects his code, and by his word magic, succeeds not in capturing time, which
to Hemingway would mean recapturing horror, but in killing it". Hemingway
also said, "all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is
no true storyteller who would keep that from you". Hemingway in most of his
writings dealt with the theme of heroism but most importantly death. Death is
the recurrent theme in many of his novels, in which the fear of it terrorizes
Hemingway, until at last he is forced into it himself by committing suicide. The
perception of death is eminent in many of his novels along with his own
biographical background. Such novels as, Death in the Afternoon is a climax of
death, which moves to A Farewell to Arms. Death also by gangs in The Killers,
and the man who is dying of Gangrene in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and of the
fear of death in Hills Like White Elephants. (Baker, p. 76) Hemingway's
recurrent theme throughout most of his novels is death. But in mostly all of his
novels he uses the same type of simple literary style. Hemingway said,
"That great American writers of the past are colonial writers, that is,
English writers who happened to have been born in America. I recognize Edgar
Allan Poe's skill, but he is dead. I dislike the rhetoric in Melville; he cannot
read Thoreau. As for Emerson, Hawthorne, Whittier, and company, they were
English Colonial who do not know that a new classic does not bear any
Resemblance to classics that have preceded it". This basically sums up the
type of writer that Hemingway was. Some critics question Hemingway's point of
view. Baker thinks, "I question this point of view, even though a new
classic may not imitate the older ones, it is indebted to them. Hemingway
himself is the best proof of that. He absorbed the simplicity of rhythm, syntax,
and vocabulary which constituted Mark Twain's freshness". (Baker, p.47-51)
Hemingway's quote basically depicts himself as one of the best writers of the
twentieth century. Baker goes along by comparing his work to Mark Twain, who was
a great author of the nineteenth century who wrote clear easy to read books
which gave beauty and format to the everyday American. Not only was Hemingway's
style clear and simple, but it was also direct and to the point. Hemingway says
during an interview, "The Old Man and The Sea could have been over a
thousand pages long and had Every character in the village in it and all the
processes of how they made their Living, were born, educated, bore children,
etc. That is done excellently and Well by other writers. In writing you are
limited by what has already been done Satisfactorily. So I have tried to learn
to do something else. First I have tried To eliminate everything unnecessary to
conveying experience to the reader so That after he or she has read something it
will become a part of his or her Experience and seem actually to have happened.
This is very hard to do and I've worked at it very hard". This is what
truly makes Hemingway one of the best writers of the twentieth century. Although
he lived a bitter life with most of it reflecting in his works, he still writes
a book that is clear and simple to read with much room left in it for critics
and interpretation. But it is not difficult to understand its meaning the first
and only time you pick up one of his books. It is true that one of Hemingway’s
recurrent themes is heroism and death, but within all his novels he manages to
convey all that is needed to make each and every short story stand out and
remembered as though it were a 500 page masterpiece.

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