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.

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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.
Category: English

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