Essay, Research Paper: Hemingway Short Stories

Literature: Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway: His life and his stories Ernest Hemingway was man of many
words. He wrote many novels and short stories. Ernest Hemingway also led a hard
life. He often incorporated his life into his stories. His life and work was a
direct result of his life. Some of his stories show a direct relationship
between his life and his work. Looking at three of Hemingway's short stories,
" Soldier's Home," "A Cat in the Rain" and " A Clean
Well-Lighted Place, in terms of their relationship to events and experiences in
Hemingway's own life. His stories from World War I reflect deeping despairs, and
a conviction that life ultimately was without meaning. Ernest Miller Hemingway
was born on July 21,1899, in Oak Park, Illinois. His father was the owner of a
prosperous real estate business. His father, Dr. Hemingway, imparted to Ernest
the importance of appearances, especially in public. Dr. Hemingway invented
surgical forceps for which he did not accept money. He believed that one should
not profit from something important for the good of mankind. Ernest's father, a
man of high ideals, was very strict and censored the books he allowed his
children to read. He forbade his Ernest's sister from studying ballet for it was
coeducational, and dancing together led to "hell and damnation" Grace
hall Hemingway, Ernest's mother, considered herself pure and proper. She was a
dreamer who was upset at anything which disturbed her perception of the world as
beautiful. She hater dirty diapers, upset stomachs, and cleaning house; they
were not fit for a lady. She taught her children to always act with decorum. She
adored the singing of the birds and the smell of flowers. Her children were
expected to behave properly and to please her, always. Mrs. Hemingway treated
Ernest, when he was a small boy, as if he were a female baby doll and she
dressed him accordingly. This arrangement was all right until Ernest got to the
age when he wanted to be a "gun-toting Pawnee Bill". He began, at the
time, to pull away from his mother, and never forgave her for his humiliation.
The town of Oak Park, where Ernest grew up, was very old fashioned and quite
religious. The townspeople forbade the word "virgin" from appearing in
schoolbooks, and the word "breast" was questioned, though it appeared
in the Bible. Ernest loved to fish, canoe and explore the woods. When he
couldn't get outside, he escaped to his room and read books. He loved to tell
stories to his classmates, often insisting that a friend listen to one of his
stories. In spite of his mother's desire, he played on the football team at Oak
Park High School. As a student, Ernest was a perfectionist about his grammar and
studied English with a fervor. He contributed articles to the weekly school
newspaper. It seems that the principal did not approve of Ernest's writings and
he complained, often, about the content of Ernest 's articles. Ernest was clear
about his writing; he wanted people to "see and feel" and he wanted to
enjoy himself while writing. Ernest loved having fun. If nothing was happening,
mischievous Ernest made something happen. He would sometimes use forbidden words
just to create a ruckus. Ernest, though wild and crazy, was a warm, caring
individual. He loved the sea, mountains and the stars and hated anyone who saw
him a phony. During World War I, Ernest, rejected from service because of a bad
left eye, was an ambulance driver, in Italy, for the Red Cross. Ernest was
injured in his knee and recuperated in a hospital, tended by a caring nurse
named Agnes. He fell in love with this nurse. When he returned to the U.S. he
embellished his war stories he won a medal for bravery. The is similar to the
character Krebs in Hemingway'' short story "Soldier's Home." When
Krebs returned to the United States everyone had already told their war stories
and his were not as exciting. So he felt the need to embellish his stories. '
Krebs found that to be listened to at all he had to lie, and after he had done
this twice he, too, had a reaction against the war and against talking about
it."(Pg. 145 Hemingway) Hemingway was against telling people about the war
at first because it caused him such pain, but later he felt that he had to talk
about it. Ernest returned home after the war, rejected by the nurse whom he fell
in love. He would party late into the night and invite, to his house, people his
parents disapproved of. Ernest's mother rejected him and he felt that he had to
move from home He moved in with a friend living in Chicago and he wrote articles
for the Toronto Star. In Chicago he met and then married Hadley Richardson . She
believed that he should spend all his time in writing, and bought him a
typewriter for his birthday. They decided that the best place for a writer to
live is Paris, where he could devote himself to his writing. He said, at the
time, that the most difficult thing to write about was being a man. They could
not live on the income from his stories and so Ernest, again, wrote for the
Toronto Star. Ernest took Hadley to Italy to show her where he had been during
the war. He was devastated, everything had changed, and everything was
destroyed. Hadley became pregnant and was sick all the time. She and Ernest
decided to move to Canada. Hadley gave birth to a boy who they named John Hadley
Nicano Hemingway. Even though he had his family Ernest was unhappy and decided
to return to Paris. Ernest was still unhappy with his wife and son. They decided
to divorce. After he divorced Hadely He married four other times, to Pauline
Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn, and Mary Welsh. In 1953 he went on a safari with
Mary, and he was in heaven hunting big game. Though Ernest had a serious
accident, and later became ill, he could never admit that he had any weaknesses;
nothing would stop him, certainly not pain. In 1954 he won the Nobel Prize for
literature. Toward the end, Ernest started to travel again, but almost the way
that someone does whom knows that he will soon die. He suddenly started becoming
paranoid and too forgets things. He became obsessed with sin; his upbringing was
over feeling like a bad person, as his father, mother and grandfather had taught
him. In the last year of his life, he lived inside of his dreams, similar to his
mother, who he hated with all his heart. He was suicidal and had electrical
shock treatments for his depression and strange behavior On a Sunday morning,
July 2, 1961, Ernest Miller Hemingway killed himself with a shotgun. Ernest
Hemingway takes much of the storylines of his short stories from his personal
experiences. In "Soldier's Home" Hemingway expresses the alienation
from bourgeois American culture that many returning soldiers felt. Harold Krebs,
who is the main character in the story, feels this alienation when he returns to
the U.S. He came back much later than the other soldiers. Everyone heard the
same stories from all the soldiers, so Krebs felt the need to lie about the
stories to make people listen and so he would feel like he belonged. Krebs is
the story's protagonist. He is bored with his town and disgusted by his parent's
bland piety. He also felt isolated from his family and their world. Hemingway
put his experiences of when he came back from the war in this story. He
incorporated the fact that he also embellished his own war stories to be
accepted when he came back. Hemingway was also alienated form his family when he
came back from the war. His family was against him going to the war in the first
place, and when the nurse that he fell in love with dumped him, he began to
party and drink a lot more that usual. His family was against that, so they
banished him from his home. Hemingway's own values were stated explicitly in the
story, where he wrote, "Krebs acquired the nausea in regard to the
experience that is the result of untruth or exaggeration"(Pg. 146
Hemingway) The Hemingway pattern had begun by contrasting life and war,
devaluating one in terms of the other. Now life became only another indication
of war. As a soldier, Krebs had preserved his sanity by rebelling quietly and
alone. Hemingway began to make some notes for a short story to be called
"Cat in the Rain" It was about himself and Hadley and the manager and
the chambermaid at the Hotel Splendide. "There were only two Americans
stopping at the hotel," it began. "They did not know any of the people
they passed on the stairs… Their room was on the second floor facing the sea.
It also faced the public garden and the war monument…The American wife stood
at the window looking out…(Pg. 167, Hemingway) these are the notes Hemingway
took down. The American wife and husband he is describing are himself and
Hadley. The story "Cat in the rain" is basically describing the
disintegration of Hemingway's marriage to Hadely. This is a deceptively simple
story about a young American, married couple vacationing in Italy. As her
husband reads, the wife looks out of a window and notices a cat crouching
underneath a table to evade the rain. Motivated by compassion as well as
boredom, she decides to go get the cat, but the cat was no longer there. She
therefore returns to the room. Still reading, the husband tells her to
"Shut up and get something to read"(Pg170 Hemingway) The husband's
crass words in conjunction with his inattentive attitude characterized him as a
stereotypical male who sees little benefit in taking his wife seriously. Her
need seem uncomplicated, even meager, yet he ignores them. The way the husband
is and the way he is acting shows the marriage of Hemingway and Hadley coming
apart. The story reflects certain strains in the marriage that Hemingway went
through with his wife, like communication. In one of the stories, " A
Clean, Well-Lighted Place," there is a good description of the world that
underlies Hemingway's world of violent action. In the early stages of the story
there is an old man sitting late in a Spanish cafй. The two waiters' are
speaking about him. "Last week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter
said. "Why?" "He was in despair" "What about?"
"Nothing" "How do you know it is nothing?" "He has
plenty of money" (Pg. 379, Hemingway) The despair is beyond plenty of
money, or beyond all the other gifts of the world. It's nature becomes a little
clearer at the end of the story when the older of the two waiters is left alone,
reluctant too to leave the clean, well-lighted place: "Turning off the
electric light he continued the conversation with himself. It is the light of
course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want
music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with
dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear?
It was not fear or dread. It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a
nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it
needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but
he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada pues nada. Our nada who art in nada,
nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada.
Give us this nada our daily nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not nada but
deliver us from nada pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with
thee. He smiled and stood before a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee
machine. (Pg383, Hemingway) And the sleepless man, the man obsessed by death, by
the meaninglessness of the world, by nothingness, by nada, is one of the
recurring symbols in the work of Hemingway. Death is the great nada. Toward the
end of Hemingway's life there became more noticeable relationships between his
life and his writing. "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" was a good example.
The nada that is talked about in the story is not only thought about in the
story but in Hemingway's mind. The fact that one of the characters in the story
was suicidal, very depressed and was in despair about nothing portrays
Hemingway. The sleepless man is Hemingway in this story. In more than one
occasion Hemingway describes himself as being obsessed with death and since
death is the great nada, it leads to Hemingway's suicide. Hemingway portrays
himself in all of these stories. Whether it's Krebs the alienated soldier, the
American husband in an Italian hotel, whose marriage is disintegrating, or the
sleepless man in the Spanish cafй obsessed with death. After Hemingway
comes home from World War I he loses the nurse that he falls in love with and
becomes alienated from his parents. Soon after he marries a woman, but that
falls apart, and then he finally becomes obsessed with nothing. He becomes
suicidal and obsessed with death. "A Clean-Well Lighted Place" was the
best description for Hemingway's suicidal tendencies. Once he became suicidal
and depressed his stories reflected deeping despairs and were seen even clearer
as a conviction that life was ultimately without meaning.
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