Essay, Research Paper: Hemmingway Short Stories

Literature: William Faulkner

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ERNEST HEMINGWAY (1899-1961) "You really ought to read more books - you
know, those things that look like blocks but come apart on one side." F.
Scott Fitzgerald, 1927 This is a paper about Ernest Hemingway's short stories
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1938?), Hills like White Elephants (1927), Cat in the
Rain (1923?), The Killers (1927) and A Clean Well-Lighted Place (1933). However,
to understand Hemingway and his short stories I find it necessary to take a
brief look at his life and background first. It is not easy to sum up Ernest
Hemingway's adventurous life in a few paragraphs, but I've tried to focus on the
most important things before I started on the analysis of the five short
stories. Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in oak Park, Illinois, July 21st 1899,
and committed suicide July 2nd, 1961. In his lifetime Hemingway managed to write
some of the best known novels of our century, including books such as The Sun
Also Rises, (1926) A Farewell to Arms (1929), Death in the Afternoon (1932) and
For Whom the Bells Toll (1940). Hemingway's first published work was Three
Stories and Ten Poems (1923) and then In Our Time (1924), before his fame grew
with the publication of The Sun Also Rises in 1926. By that time Hemingway was
married and had a child, and he was working as a news correspondent in Paris. At
the age of 18 Ernest Hemingway signed up for the army to fight in World War I,
but because of his poor vision he was not accepted in the fighting forces. After
a short span as a reporter in Kansas City, he joined the Red Cross as an
ambulance driver. Three weeks after his arrival at the front, Hemingway was
wounded and spent nearly six months in convalescing before he returned home to
USA and a hero's welcome. Hemingway's experiences in Italy, his wounding and
recovery, later inspired his great novel A Farewell To Arms, and also explains
some of the dark, pessimistic spirit one can trace trough much of his later
work. After the return from Europe, Hemingway worked as a reporter for the
Toronto Star Daily and in 1921 he moved to Paris as the paper's European
correspondent. Hemingway's background as a reporter is clearly shown in most of
his work, and the rules inflicted in the newspaper, advocating short sentences,
short paragraphs, active verb, authenticity, compression, clarity and immediacy
follows him throughout his career. He later said: "Those were the best
rules I ever learned for the business of writing. I've never forgotten
them." (Wilson) He lived, worked and wrote in Paris for the next six years,
until he moved back to the US in 1928. Hemingway was an eager hunter and fisher.
He went on many hunting safaris to Africa and was a passionate deep sea fisher.
Hemingway's love of nature and hunting is shown in many of his novels and short
stories, most clearly in the book The Old Man and The Sea from 1952. The
struggle between the man and the marlin is a brilliant description of courage
and stamina, and the old man seems to be the prime example of the Hemingway
hero, a culmination of a lifetime of writing that comes together in the
character of Santiago. Hemingway settled in the US in 1928 and wrote much of his
best work in the next ten-fifteen years. He worked as a correspondent in the
Spanish Civil War in 1937, and covered the Normandy invasion and the liberation
of Paris among others in the final face of World War II. Hemingway received the
Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. The stories I have chosen for this essay, The
Snows of Kilimanjaro (1938?), Hills like White Elephants (1927), Cat in the Rain
(1923?), The Killers (1927) and A Clean Well-Lighted Place (1933), have many
things in common, but are also distinct in their own ways. All five are centered
within a small geographic area, and the time span of the stories are relatively
short in all five. I will give a brief recap of each story before I start
analyzing them thoroughly. The Snows of Kilimanjaro describes a couple on a
hunting safari who has had an accident. The husband, Harry, has injured his
foot, and it became infected. Because of bad/wrong treatment of the wound, he is
slowly dying. The wife takes care of him and tries to provide for him the best
she can, but in the end she can't prevent him from dying. On his deathbed Harry
contemplates his life and the things he never did. Hills Like White Elephants is
a story about a man and his girlfriend. On the surface it seams like they are
sitting on a train station waiting for a train to Madrid. Upon closer
examination of the conversation there are signs that there is more to it than
meets the eye. In fact, she is pregnant and they are on their way to get an
abortion. This is what they actually discuss. Cat in the Rain is also a story
about a couple. The couple, elderly and probably wealthy, is on holiday in
Italy. The woman sees a cat caught out in the rain and wants to go downstairs
and "save" it. When she gets down to the cat, the animal is gone.
However, the hotel-keeper comes to her rescue and later gets the cat in and
brought up to their room. The Killers is a story about two men entering a diner
and discussing with the manager. They hold the manager, the cock and the only
guest by gunpoint and force them into the kitchen. Then they reveal that they
are there to kill a man, Ole Andreson, but the man never show up. The three
"hostages" are released unharmed when Andreson doesn't appear. As the
guest (Nick Adams, a character in several Hemingway stories) goes to warn
Andreson, he finds the man unaffected and little interested in trying to escape.
In A Clean Well-Lighted Place Hemingway takes the reader to a small cafй
where two waiters are having a discussion about an old man who is the last
remaining guest. Apparently the man has tried to take his life earlier, and he
is a regular guest at the establishment. The youngest waiter wants to kick him
out so he can go home, while the older waiter sympathizes with the man and wants
to let him stay a bit longer. In the end the younger waiter kicks the old man
out. "Maybe you could never write them, and that was why you put them off
and delayed the starting." The Snows of Kilimanjaro Hemingway's The Snows
of Kilimanjaro is a story about a man and his death struggle, his relationship
to his wife, and his recollections of a troubling existence. It is also, more
importantly, a story about writing. Through the story of Harry, a deceptive,
dying, decaying writer, Hemingway expresses his own feelings about writing, as
an art, as a mean of financial support, and as an inescapable urge. When
analyzing the story, much focus can be put on the failures of Harry. His
failures to write, his failures as a man, a husband and a hunter. Harry and his
wife ended up in the unfortunate position after Harry had an accident on their
hunting trip, and wounded his leg. The leg has been infected and Harry is slowly
dying. As he is dying Harry contemplates his life and all the things he didn't
do, write or say in his lifetime. At his deathbed Harry find himself at the base
of the mighty Kilimanjaro mountain, the highest point in Africa. He is looking
up at the snow-covered top of the mountain, and at the end, as he passed away,
he dreams that he reaches the top. Obviously the mountain plays a significant
role in the story, and this is also shown in the title. In his death dream,
Harry dreams that this is where he is headed, but the reader leaves Harry in an
indeterminate state and returns to the world of the living, were in fact Harry
has died in his bed. Harry, as a writer, never writes about the things which he
most wants, and is therefore a failure. Harry is the author who cannot bring
himself to write about his past experiences. The italicized portions of the
story are the ones about which Harry has always desired, but never been able, to
write. In fact, the italicized text is comprised of the experiences which would
have made good fiction, had they only been written. Sadly, Harry is never given
the opportunity to write these stories because he has grown soft, he has lost
the ability to create, he has failed as a writer. Hemingway portrays Harry as a
man who is a "failed artist", as an artist who is struggling with his
art, an art that Hemingway knows intimately. In several of his short stories,
Ernest Hemingway uses one or more animals as symbols around which the stories
revolve. In The Snows Of Kilimanjaro, the animal symbols can easily be observed.
Hemingway uses two different animals to symbolize the person Harry wishes is and
the man he has actually become. The leopard, even if it is only seen in the
opening paragraph of the story, is a symbol of what Harry wishes he was. It's
presence is important throughout the story. In the opening paragraph, the reader
is told the legend of the leopard carcass found at the top of Kilimanjaro. This
leopard, it seems, was seeking the summit for some unknown reason. The leopard
gives the reader associations of grace, speed, strength, courage, and dignity.
It is an animal that acts with purpose, with lightning speed, and with accuracy.
In this story, the leopard symbolizes all of these qualities, lacking in Harry
The hyena is a symbol of qualities that are present in Harry. This vicious
scavenger, who all through the story circles the camp, waiting for Harry to die,
represents the scavenger-like qualities of Harry's personality and his spiritual
death, which has occurred long before his physical one. Because he was too
afraid to try, Harry never was able to live out his talent decisively, and he
realizes that if he dies, he "would not have to fail at writing [his
thoughts] down", and therefore does not fight against death. He merely
awaits death, expecting to gain from it the spiritual enlightenment that others
must work hard for. The hyena is much closer related to Harry's personality than
the leopard. He has lived off the riches of his wife, calling his love for her
"the lie he made his bread and butter by". Harry lies crippled on a
cot while his wife goes "to kill a piece of meat", the camp is an
extension of the real world in which Harry picks up the leftovers of others,
just as the hyenas live off the leftovers of the better hunters. Every time the
hyena appears in the story, it is somehow associated with Harry's death. When
Harry faces the realization of his death, it comes "with a rush. . . of a
sudden evil-smelling emptiness. . . that the hyena slipped lightly on the edge
of" and when death finally sets in, it is announced by the hyena, with
"a strange, human, almost crying sound" Since it is with Harry's
psychological state that the hyena is associated, it is not necessarily of
Harry's physical death that the hyena is symbolic. It is just as well a symbol
of the psychological death that has already occurred because of his inability to
act decisively and write down his inner thoughts. The physical death is simply
the last step in this process. Also the hyena symbolizes death itself. It is an
animal that lives of death and dead animals, unable to hunt for itself. Towards
the end the hyena is replaced by Death, but in the final paragraph it is back as
the symbol of Harry, both his life and his death. The two animals in the story
represent conflicting personality traits. Harry, in the end, dies as he lives,
as a hyena scavenging the leopard's leftovers on the plains below the
Kilimanjaro. Hemingway is known as a master of the innuendo, the double meaning.
Also in several other stories he uses the animal symbol as a description of the
protagonist or main character. In Cat in the Rain, the animal symbol is so
essential to the story that it is described already in the title. This "cat
in the rain" is symbolic of the emotional state of mind of the American
wife. She is in a near drowned emotional state, caused by her husbands apathy
and lack of affection. Hemingway also establishes a bond between the woman and
the cat right from the start. She empathizes with the animal and when it's first
observed seeking cover under the table, it is described as "she", even
though the gender is clearly impossible to establish from three floors up.
However this creates a bond in the readers mind between the cat and the American
woman. The American woman's empathy for the cat is shown through her persistence
to rescue it from the rain, despite the fact that she has to go out and get wet
herself. She knows "it isn't any fun to be a poor kitty out in the
rain". It is soon clear to the observant reader why the woman emphasizes
with the cat. (Besides the fact that she likes cats.) She herself feels like a
cat drowning in the rain. Her husband is the source of her emotional despair,
and he doesn't really give her the attention she deserves. When she tells him
her desires, he is indifferent to her needs. The woman wants the cat so she can
hold it on "her lap and pet it as it purrs." Obviously she is
expressing the desire to be loved and held. Maybe even the need for someone to
stroke her, physically as well as emotionally. There are clearly strong sexual
undertone in this story, as is the case in several of Hemingway's stories. The
woman feels unwomanly, like a boy with her short hair. When the cat finally is
brought in from the rain, it is the hotel-keeper that has responded to the
woman's needs and came to her (or the cat's) rescue, not her husband. That is
the same man that had caused in her "a momentary feeling of supreme
importance", and in whom she admired 'the way he wanted to serve her".
He has provided the woman with the attention that she's not receiving from her
husband, at least not emotionally. The sexual undertone suggests that the wife
might be satisfied by the hotel-keeper, emotionally as well as sexually. The
sexual undertone, which is a trademark in many of Hemingway's novels and short
stories, is also present in the story Hills Like White Elephants. In this story
Hemingway portrays a couple that on the surface is only taking a trip, waiting
for their train to arrive. At a first glance one is almost led to believe that
this is it, that these two people just sit in the bar and talk about drinking
and nothing of importance. However, looking deeper into the conversation one can
detect much more. They are obviously on their way to some (illegal) clinic where
she can have an abortion. This is never stated directly, but the conversation is
clearly circling the subject. The characters in the story are also described
differently. They are introduced as the American and the girl, showing that
there is a age difference between them. The man is never named, and not given
much of a personality. The girl, later named Jig, has more of a personality. She
has a difficult time making up her mind whether or not to keep the baby and has
a problem clearly stating what she thinks to the American. She thinks the
abortion can save their relationship, while the man already has distanced
himself from her and realized that they can't go back to where they were before.
The characters are really mysterious, we know nothing about their lives but they
seem to have nothing to do in life apart from sex and drinking. They spend the
time drinking, alcohol is considered as aphrodisiac. They order "anнs"
because she wants to try new things, maybe she is considering the possibility of
having a new relationship or a new experience in life, but when she tastes it
she says "it tastes like licorice" which is a very common and not
exotic taste, and she adds that "Everything tastes of licorice. Especially
all the things you've waited so long for... " implying that when you wait
for something for a long time, for instance a relationship, once you get it, it
loses the mystery and appeal. Later on there is a reference to the routine they
seem to be in when she says that all they do is looking at things and trying new
drinks. The two briefly discuss their future, and by that time the attitude of
the American regarding the unborn child is annoying Jig. This is shown in her
remark "And you think then we'll be all right and be happy?" The
sarcasm in Jig's question is evident, but the American is oblivious to the
meaning and tosses the subject aside and continues to discuss the "simple
operation." He is clearly afraid that she will change her mind about the
operation, and he is all the time trying to reassure her in the decision. He
openly refers to the operation as nothing of importance, and very easy;
"It's just to let the air in". The American feels that the pregnancy
is a nuisance in their lives. The baby would mean the necessity to settle down
and start a family, and this would change their life. They live a nomadic life,
moving around a lot, and their suitcases are full of "labels from all the
hotels they had spent nights." At the end of the story the American says
"we can have the world" and Jig replies "No, we can't. It isn't
ours anymore… And once they have taken it away, you never get it back."
Here we can detect that Jig wants the child, and knows that once she has the
operation she won't be able to get the child back. She's also afraid that after
the operation the relationship will change. The American is only concerned about
her having the operation. He wants to convince her it is her decision, but
leaves only one option. He says "if you don't want to you don't have
to…But I know it's perfectly simple." He is the only one who have no
doubts about it. The symbolism in the story is not as obvious as in "Cat in
the Rain", but also in this story Hemingway utilizes symbols to illustrate.
The story takes place in a train station in the valley of the Ebro, Spain. The
train in the story could symbolize change, and the fact that it only stops for
two minutes illustrates the short time in which Jig has to make a decision. At
this point in time abortion was certainly not legal in catholic Spain, and the
decision had to be taken quickly. In a way the train symbolizes the journey of
life. Many things in the story is related to fertility and aridness. The topic
of pregnancy and abortion is illustrated through the title of the story where
"Hills Like White Elephants" refer to the shape of the belly of a
pregnant woman. The first impression you get when you start reading the text is
that it is situated in the middle of a dry, infertile place under the sun, with
no shade or trees. It reinforces the idea of lack of life but in contrast, the
people are in the warm shadow of the building where life is. This emphasizes the
contrast between the pregnancy of the woman, as being fertile, and everything
around them, including him. They are also separated from the rest of the people
that are inside the bar from a bamboo bead curtain, it gives the idea of privacy
reinforced by the idea of the warm shadow of the building that protects them
from the world that exists inside the bar, they are outside, with nature. The
unusual name of the girl, Jig, is also somewhat symbolic. It is the name of a
lively dance and it can also refer to "a particular sort of behavior or
activity which varies according to the situation that someone is in"
(Collins Cobuild Dictionary). I discovered this by chance looking up the dance,
but that meaning of the name clearly shows that Hemingway didn't pick the name
out of the air. The name implies that she can change her mind about the
abortion, and the American is afraid that this might happen. He is all the time
trying to reassure her in the decision. After the first introductory paragraph,
the dialogue between the two people start. The dialogue seems casual, but
through it we can deduce the kind of relationship they have. The language is
simple, but it's still expressing feelings. The real theme of the conversation
is not clearly stated but it is underlying, they are talking about love,
feelings and her pregnancy. The tension is in the air, but is not expressed
openly, maybe because of a fear of being overheard (since they are talking about
an illegal act), or maybe it's just a problem of communication and of sharing
feelings. There are some references to sexuality in the form of phallic symbols,
such as "Anнs del Toro", the bull being a symbol of virility and
strength. It's the girl, Jig, who starts the dialogue and she is the one taking
the decisions, implying that the decision for the abortion in the end will be
hers. The American avoids the topic at first, changing the subject and talk
about simple things such as the weather. Like most men, he has a problem showing
his feelings. The story also shows another trait of Hemingway's stories; the use
of Spanish (foreign) words and sentences. The man orders "dos cervezas"
from the bar lady. One can assume that she doesn't speak English, but later on
he orders and she answers in English. However, from the context of the story it
is clear that this conversation also takes place in Spanish, but that in order
not to translate the whole conversation only the first word exchange was kept in
Spanish to set the stage. The use of Spanish word and sentences is also shown in
the story A Clean Well-Lighted Place. This story is, like "Hills Like White
Elephants", set in a small Spanish town and almost the entire story takes
place inside a small "cafй." The main part of the story is the
conversation between the two waiters. The younger waiter is impatient to get
home to his wife, and angry at the old man who's keeping them there so late. The
other waiter is older, unmarried and in no hurry to get home. He empathizes with
the old man, and understand his need to stay there. In fact he states that
"I am of those who like to stay late at the cafй." The older
waiter shows concern for the old man, and he is the one who knows about the
niece and the suicide attempt. As the story progresses, the character of the two
waiters emerges through their dialogue and thoughts, as does many of Hemingway's
characters. The use of Spanish words in this story, suggesting it takes place in
Spain, emerges at the end of the story, as the older waiter walks of alone and
visits some bar. When the bartender asks what he wants, the man answers in
Spanish: "Nada". The bartender answers in Spanish "Otro loco mas"
suggesting that, as is the case with the conversation between the man and the
waiter in Hills Like White Elephants, the whole conversation actually takes
place in Spanish. The setting of the story in Spain could also be supported by
the surroundings of the cafй. The soldier passing by with his sweetheart,
and the two men's comments at the time suggests that it is in the period of the
dictatorship before the civil war, or during the war. Their comments that the
guards will get him could point to a time of conflict. (Like the civil war.) In
the story the older waiter possesses many of the typical character traits of the
Hemingway hero. He is reserved, judgmental and thoughtful, much like Harry in
"The Snows of Kilimanjaro". He takes the old man in his defense, and
shows concern for him. He says he knows how nice it is to be in a clean,
well-lighted place instead of in some noisy, dirty bar. He doesn't mind staying
in the bar a little longer so the man can finish up in his own pace. At the end
he has a "discussion" with himself, contemplating his life and
religion and the emptiness of his existence. This is another parallel to the
character of Harry. As A Clean Well-Lighted Place and Hills like White
Elephants, the story The Killers is placed in a little place. This story is
situated inside a small diner in a small town called Summit. The story begins as
two men, immediately striking the reader as rude and unpleasant men, enters and
starts to hassle the manager, George. There is only one customer in the diner
except the two gangsters, and he is quickly intimidated by the men. The
customer, Nick Adams, is a character Hemingway writes about in several stories.
Like the two other stories mentioned earlier, this story is merely told as if
someone is outside registering what happens. Hemingway often writes his stories
like that, as if observed by a camera. Also the dialogue in the story is typical
of Hemingway. It is the dialogue that carries the action of the story and there
is no need for much explanation except to describe certain actions. The style of
much dialogue and a writing the way people speak is something Hemingway masters
perfectly. The emotion behind the dialogue is also easy to spot in most
Hemingway stories. In this story it seems as if Andreson doesn't care about his
life anymore. Like Harry in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, he merely accepts the fact
that he's dying. Neither Andreson or Harry is doing anything to avoid their
destiny, even though in both cases they could probably at least postpone death.
Andreson merely says "there's nothing I can do about it" and he just
stays apathetic in his room. The fact that he haven't been out all day points to
him already knowing about the gangsters from Chicago, and as George suggests, he
probably got in to some kind of trouble in Chicago. Conclusion: Hemingway
generally use much dialogue and writes in a conversational style. All five of
the stories I have chosen contain a lot of dialogue and the characters carry the
action of the story through their conversation. Hemingway, like William
Faulkner, was an expert in writing human dialogue. The symbolism in Hemingway's
stories are often taking form of animals, but also other symbols are commonly
used. In several of his short stories, Ernest Hemingway uses one or several
animals as symbols around which the stories revolve. As central symbols,
Hemingway's animals are the manifestations of the psychological states and
emotional desires of the main characters in the stories and are used to enable
the reader's apprehension of the often unstated psychological forces that
motivate them. The sexual undertone is also often a strong presence in
Hemingway's stories. As the conversation goes on the feeling that there is more
to what the character say emerges, and one can understand the underlying, double
meaning of the story. This is something notably of Hemingway. Often he is
characterized as the "master of innuendo and double meaning." The
geographical placement of Hemingway's stories are usually limited to minimal
physical settings, and the time span is short. All five stories discussed here
are limited to a little place, whether that is a bar, train station, cafй,
diner or the small hunting camp on the great plains of Africa. This is a usual
trait in many short stories, and this is a trait Hemingway often uses. The
women, or the supporting characters, in Hemingway's stories are often weak and
indecisive. The wife in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the woman in Cat in the Rain
and the girl in Hills Like White Elephants are all either weak or treated badly
without them doing anything about it. Harry's wife in The Snows of Kilimanjaro
is not even named, even though we get to know Harry well through the story. Jig
in Hills Like White Elephants seems to be a strong woman. However, the way she
is treated and the fact that she most likely will give in to the mans whishes
and have the abortion, tells us that she isn't strong enough to stand up for
herself after all. Hemingway has a tendency to treat the women in his stories
badly, and the male characters of his stories is often emotionally cold and
doesn't show much feelings. This could be a reflection of his own life,
Hemingway was married several times and never seemed emotionally stabile. He
eventually even took his life. Hemingway's characters are usually mobile and
unattached. Often they are people who are travelling in strange and unfamiliar
environments, in train stations, on safari, at diners or bars, at the races or
in the bull fighting arena. He writes about lovers, often tearing each other
apart. He writes about the old writer on his deathbed, glancing up at the snow
covered top of Kilimanjaro and thinking about everything his life should have
been. He writes about the lonely old man, patiently sitting in the clean
well-lighted place as long as he can, just to forget about whatever it is
waiting for him out in the night. He writes about the old man fighting the
marlin in his little boat, just to prove to himself that he can beat the sea one
more time. Hemingway is one of the greatest writers of our century, and his
stories will live on to amuse many generations to come.

Wilson, M., "No Man Alone - A biography of Ernest Hemingway",, visited November 13,
1998 Pickering, James H., "Fiction 100 -An Anthology of Short Stories"
8th ed., Prentice-Hall inc. New Jersey, 1998 Hemingway, Ernest "Short
Stories" Charles Scribner' Sons New York, 1953
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