Hemingway Short Stories

.. f 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.

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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 café. 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 café 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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