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Ernest Hemmingway and his Writings

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Ernest Hemmingway and his Writings Powered By Docstoc
					Review of Ernest Hemingway and Writings



      Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American novelest and
short-story writer whose writings and personal life exerted a
profound influence on American writers of his time and
thereafter. Many of his works are regarded as American classics,
and some have subsequently been made into motion pictures. A
review of Hemingway reveals many interesting points about his
life, about the influences upon his works, and of the the themes
and styles of his writings.

      An examination of Hemingway's past brings to light many
interesting points and helps to create a better understanding of
how he came to be the master of the understated prose style. The
second of six children born to Clarence and Grace Hemingway,
Ernest was born July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. The society
he grew up in was one of strict disciplinarians. His parents
were no exception. In fact he spent much of his life trying to
escape the "repressive code of behavior" (CLC, 177) that was
pushed upon him as a child. After graduating high school in 1977
he chose not to go to college and instead became a reporter for
the Kansas City Star, where he remained for seven months. His
oppurtunity to break away came when he volunteered as a Red
Cross ambulance driver in Italy. In July of 1918 while serving
along the Piave River, he was severely wounded by shrapnel and
forced to return home after recuperation in January 1919. The
war had left him emotionally and physically shaken, and
according to some critics he began as a result "a quest for
psychological and artistic freedom that was to lead him first to
the secluded woods of Northern Michigan, where he had spent his
most pleasant childhood moments, and then to Europe, where his
literary talents began to take shape." (CLC, 177) First he took
a part-time job as a feature writer for the Toronto Star, eager
to further pursue his journalistic ambitions. In the fall of
1920 he became the contributing editor of a trade journal, which
took him to Chicago. It was there that he met his first wife,
Hadley Richardson. They were married in September 1921. In
December of that year they went to France and for a 19 month
strech Ernest travled over Europe and Anatolia as a foreign
correspondant for the Toronto Star. In late 1923 they returnned
briefly to Toronto where their son John was born, but Europe was
still in Hemingway's mind. In early 1924 he resigned his job at
the Star and moved back to Paris to launch his career as a
writer.

      In an examination of Hemmingway's writings is very much akin to
a study of his life. Most all of his fiction was based upon or
expanded from events that he himself had experienced, or at
least that which he knew completely, inside and out. Being the
perfectionist that he was, Ernest did not feel justified in
writing about topics of which he was not comepletely informed.
Through his extensive travels in Europe and Africa, as well as
other areas, he formed the groundwork for many of his most famed
and cherished stories. His work as a Red Cross ambulance driver
(mentioned earlier) in Italy ended up providing the theme and
location of one of his most sucsessful novels, A Farewell to
Arms, published in 1929. Many of his tales, especially in
earlier years, centered around a character named Nicholas Adams,
undoubtably an incarnation of Hemingway himself. Just as
Hemingway before him, Nick Adams grew up around the Michigan
woods, went overseas to fight in the war, was severely wounded,
and returned home. Earlier stories set in Michigan, such as
"Indian Camp" and "The Three-Day Blow" show a young Nick to be
an impressionable adolescent trying to find his path in a
brutally violent and overwhelmingly confusing world. Like most
all of Hemingway's main characters, Nick on the surface appears
tough and insensitive. However, "critical exploration has
resulted in a widespread conclusion that the toughness stems not
from insensitivity but from a strict moral code which functions
as the characters' sole defense against the overwhelming chaos
of the world." (CLC, 177) Not just Nick Adams' experiences, but
his attitudes as well seem to mimic those of his creator.
Ernest's 1924-25 adventures in Paris and Pamplona were the
basis of a memorable novel, The Sun Also Rises, which helped to
build him a reputation. The book was instantly sucsessful and
made him the leader of what was called "The Lost Generation."
(Grolier, 1) His 1938 play and mellodrama of the Spanish Civil
War, The Fifth Column, was composed a year earlier during a stay
in Madrid. In 1933-34 He went on a big-game safari in Kenya and
Tanganyika where he became an avid hunter and picked up the
knowledge for his 1935 nonfiction work, Green Hills of Africa.
Also derived from his African experiences were two of best
stories, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Short Happy Life of
Francis Macomber." Dubbed his most ambitios novel, "For Whom The
Bell Tolls," about the tragedy that had befallen the Spanish
people, came following the time he spent serving as a
correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance during
the Spanish Civil War. Other stories of his, while not based as
directly on events in his life, were still of subjects he took
interest in and was quite knowledgeable about.

      Upon review of Hemingway's writings, it can be concluded that
his works, on the whole, reflect the themes and attitudes of his
own life, and tend to be rejecting of society. All of his works
seem to revolve around the psychologically wounded Hemingway
Hero, accurately representing his own ongoing struggle to face
the world with "grace under pressure." (CLC, 178)        All of
Hemingway's heros adhere to their own code, or set of moral
standards. They are usually men, tough and experienced in the
world they know, yet seemingly insensitive. Though they may seem
cold on the surface, it has been said that "the fidelity to a
code, to a discipline, may be an index to a sensitivity which
allows the characters to see, at moments, their true plight. At
times, and usually at times of stress, it is the tough man, for
Hemingway, the disciplined man, who actually is aware of pathos
or tragedy." (CLC, 179) For example Harry, in "The Snows of
Kilimanjaro," who fits the above decription of a Hemingway Hero,
lying incapacitated and ready to die, reveals through a series
of flashbacks his own imperfections and regrets. What he
experiences on his death bed is a moment of clarity, and is akin
to the man of discipline who, in a time of stress, finds his own
sensitivity and is able to see his true plight.

      The general idea behind Hemingway's stories usually fall into
one of two categories. First, there is the story about the man
who as already adopted his code, or disciplines, in the world
which he cannot otherwise cope with. The second, which is used
more often, is about growth and learning, about discovery of the
world's evils and disorder, and about the steps taken towards
"mastery of discipline" (CLC, 180) and the building of one's
code. One good example of the latter would be "The Short Hapy
Life of Francis Macomber" in which a weak spineless man on
safari in Africa (note the similarity to Hemingway's own
experience) experiences various achievements and rejections
which lead to his timely evolution from a normal twit to a
disciplined man. Still the definitive hero of Hemingway's tales
is Nick Adams', whose collected stories are entirely about
just that, the initiation into a swirling world of evil and
confusion, and the learning necesary to cope with it. Over half
of the first forty-five stories that Hemingway wrote focus on
Nick, or occasionally another young man so similar that they
could be one and the same. As a young boy, Nick's reaction to
the world is that of shock. He stands to the side and observes
events, more than taking part in them. Terrible things happen to
him, and about him, as he grows up through the course of
Hemingway's work. His experiences teach the reader about life,
and help to reveal the truths we would otherwise encounter in a
manner similar to him. In other words, "He is the whipping-boy
of our fearful awareness...He suffers our accidents and defeats
before they happen to us." (CLC, 183)

      The impact which Ernest Hemingway's work has left upon society
is nothing short of astounding. He has taught about life's harsh
realities and the importance of maintaining a code by which to
live and deal with those realities. Through his own extensive
experiences he has compiled these stories of the dark side of
life, and of the good that can be found within. His own battle
with the unforgiving world in which we exist, from which his
stories were derived, was lost in 1961 when he committed
suicide. The world will forever bear his mark.