Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Works of Ernest Hemingway

Three Stories and Ten Poems
Hemingway made a false start as a poet and his first collection Three Stories and Ten Poems received acclaim no doubt but it was only through experience that he discovered that his talent lay in fiction rather than in poetry. With the publication of The Torrents of Spring he simply declared his having come of age. He repudiated his imitation of Sherwood Anderson whom he had imitated in his early stories.

In Our Time
In Our Time is a collection of short stories and vignettes. The title comes from the Common Book of Prayer but the stories reveal that there is no “peace in our time”. In this book he created a new character called Nick Adams and it is the experience of Nick Adams and other similar characters which form the staple of the book. Ministers are shot, lovers are separated, affairs come to an end, murders are committed, in short, the book deals with everything decent coming to an end. The sensitive critics had set high hopes on him and their hopes were not unjustified.
The Torrents of Spring
The Torrents of Spring is a parody of Sherwood Anderson’s works in general and The Dark Laughter in particular. The book is not an organic part of Hemingway’s works and it does not have any parallel whatsoever with any of his other works. It is simply a declaration of his coming of age. It need hardly be said that the book has an interest of its own but it does not reveal any other significant aspect of the writer except his art of parody, satire, wit and humour.
The San Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises is a story of a few American expatriates who were living in Paris after the War. They were all wounded -either physically or psychologically by the war. _The old pre-war values cannot give them the direction that they are looking for and in this lost world they are all lost souls. They drink heavily to quieten their inner voice. Sex for them has lost all its glamour and having the sex act is just like having a glass of beer or wine. Jake Barnes is a casualty of the First World War. He has been hit in the genitals and as a result of this accident he cannot have any sex life. Lady Brett Ashley is in love with him but because of his physical impairment they cannot consummate their love. She is a modern Don Juan, turned bitch. She has had a brief affair with Robert Cohn, a Jew, but it does not mean a thing to her. Robert Cohn thinks of her very highly and he follows her like a lamb wherever she goes. Once she has discarded him, Robert Cohn becomes a non-entity so far as she is concerned. All the dissolute gang moves to Pamplona in Spain to watch the fiesta in which there are bull-fights everyday. The characters enter into the spirit of the fiesta because this is what they have gone there for. There is an endless round of drinking throughout the week that they are there. In the bull ring there has arrived a new matador, Pedro Romero. Brett falls in love with him and they leave Pamplona for Madrid without informing others. Robert Cohn who had fought with Romero feels as if he has been defeated by the invincible courage of the young bull-fighter. After this event Robert Cohn fades away from the scene.
Romero wants Brett Ashley to marry him, but she is much older than him. Consequently, she decides that she cannot ruin the young bull-fighter. She asks the young bull-fighter to leave her alone and sends a telegram to Jake Barnes to rescue her from the Madrid Hotel. Jake Barnes who had introduced Romero to Brett Ashley feels that he is guilty of violating his code. For this there is no remedy except to go and meet Brett Ashley in Madrid. But somehow he has come to realise the limitations of his own existence and the only way out for him is to come to terms with life without love.
A Farewell to Arms
In 1929 Hemingway published A Farewell to Arms. The hook is about the First World War and it epitomizes the whole of the American response to the First World War. Lieutenant Frederic Henry who is working in the Red Cross goes through the unusual experience of the First World War which because of its mechanised nature takes away from war all the gory that had been attached to it. He falls in love with a British nurse, Catherine Barkley. Catherine is in a state of shock because her fiance had been shot to pieces in the war. Henry has no intention whatsoever of loving her but Catherine’s devotion and love are so powerful that Henry eventually falls deeply in love with her. It is a new experience for him because what he was used to was the brief contact with women in brothels. Henry, like Hemingway, has been wounded badly in the war and when he is recouping in a Milan hospital, Catherine, who is also transferred to that hospital, looks after him physically as well as emotionally. The sweet nights in Milan lead to the inevitable result r Catherine becomes pregnant.
Henry after his recovery returns to the, front but he cannot forget Catherine who is left alone to rough out her life in the rough world. During the retreat Henry at one stage is about to be shot by the battle police for having deserted his unit. He realises the stupidity of war and his inconsequential participation in that. He deserts the army by jumping into a river and when he reaches Milan he discovers that Catherine has already left for Stresa, a small town on the Italy-Switzerland border. He succeeds in joining her and the two lovers escape to Switzerland because the Italian police are after Henry. In Switzerland they have a brief spell of happy life but when Catherine is admitted to hospital for the birth of the child she cannot bear the child in the normal way. The doctors perform a Caesarean operation. The child is still-born. Finally, Catherine dies due to internal haemorrhage.
Henry is left all alone in this wide world. The Hemingway hero will carry the scars of this fatal accident with him throughout his life. In this novel by killing Catherine in childbirth Hemingway perhaps reconciled himself to the loss of Agnes H. von Kurowski who had refused to marry him even though she had earlier promised to do so.
Death in the Afternoon
Hemingway’s interest in bull-fighting dates to the early twenties when he was in Paris. He collected a lot of information on the art of bull-fighting, the famous bull-fighters of the period, the ethic of the bullring, and the dangers to which the bull-fighter was constantly exposed. Hemingway had also come to learn that death is the ultimate reality and it is only in the face of death that man realises his potentialities. He found in the bull-fighter a modern hero who could give meaning to his existence by the manner of his facing danger continually. All this material goes into the best book on bull-fighting in the English language, Death in the Afternoon.
Green Hills of Africa
In Green Hills of Africa he compares the life of the writer to that of the hunter. “First, there must be talent, much talent. Talent­––such as Kipling had. Then there must be discipline. The discipline of Flaubert. Then there must be the conception of what it can be and of absolute conscience as unchanging as the standard metre in Paris, to prevent faking. Then the writer must be intelligent and disinterested and above all he must survive. Try to get all these in one person and have him come through all the influences that press on a writer. The hardest thing, because time is so short, is for him to survive, and get his work done.” The book describes Hemingway’s adventure in Africa where he shot lions, buffaloes, deer of many sizes and varieties. He developed a love for Africa and in the African people he found a new inspiration because these people lived in close touch with nature and thus developed a harmonious relationship with it. The civilised man, particularly the western man, had alienated himself from nature and most of his experiences were rather superficial.
Two African Stories
Out of this African venture emerged two powerful short stories. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
To Have and Have Not
Hemingway has written in Green Hills of Africa : “If you serve time for, society, democracy, and the other things quite young, and declining any further enlistment make you, self responsible only to yourself, you exchange the pleasant, comforting of comrades for something, you could never feel in any way than yourself. That something I cannot define completely but the feeling, comes when you write well and truly of something and know impersonally you have written in that way and those who are paid to read it and report on it do hot like the subject so they say this is all fake.” What Hemingway seems to be implying is that his earlier experience during the First World War had been enough to alienate him from the social set-up in which he was born and to which he owed allegiance. He seems to have struck out a new path for himself and he was hot going to involve himself in the dilemmas of society. This alienation lasted from 1919 to 1937. The writings of this period show Hemingway’s disillusionment with war, love and the high ideals in whose praise politicians, reformers and economists had been eloquent. The depression of the Nineteen Thirties seems to have aroused Hemingway’s consciousness and the result of three books : To Have and Have Not, The Fifth Column and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Thus his “separate peace” had come to an end.
If we ignore The Torrents of Spring, To Have and Have Not is Hemingway’s first attempt at delineating American society. It consists of three inter-linked stories in which Harry Morgan is the hero. In Part One, Harry Morgan becomes extremely poor because one of the rich business magnates had cheated him of his legitimate dues. He is forced to adopt questionable means to earn his, livelihood and in the process loses his arm and his boat. In Part Two he shows Harry Morgan’s domestic life which is extremely happy. In contrast a number of other characters are shown to be unhappy. In the final section, Part Three, Harry agrees to carry a few Cubans out of the United States. The Cubans get into a boat, which Harry has hired and on their way to Cuba, while attempting to kill the Cubans he is wounded fatally. Although he succeeds in killing the Cubans yet as his life-blood is gushing out he pontificates : “One man alone ain’t got. No man alone now ... No matter now a man alone ain’t got no bloody chance.” It is a commentary on the extreme individualism that Hemingway had practised and preached in his earlier novels. He seems t) have accepted. the view that as man lives in society he must accept to work within the framework provided by the society and if there is any hope of improving the lot of the poor, it must be achieved through collective action. ; Singly a man has no chance whatsoever. However admirable the moral of the story may be, it does not stem naturally from the story. The moral is highly forced and critics have taken Hemingway to task for that.
The Fifth Column
The Fifth Column is a play set against the background of the Spanish Civil War. In Hemingway’s own words : “Each day we were shelled by the guns beyond Leganes and behind the folds of Garabitas hill, and while I was writing the play, Hotel Florida, where we lived and worked, was struck by more than thirty high explosive shells.” The hero, Philip Rawley, an American, is a newspaper correspondent in Spain. He is in love with a girl called Dorothy Bridges who is an upper middle-class American girl. She wants Philip to marry her and lead a life of domesticity. Philip unknown to Dorothy is deeply involved in the Civil War and he is fighting along with the Republicans. He is spying on behalf of the Republicans and even takes part in a raid on a Fascist outpost where they capture a Fascist politician. With his help they get the names of all the members of the Fifth Column within the city. They destroy them so that the insiders may not pass on any information to the Fascist forces outside. The action is on the pattern of `cop and robber’ stories but the message that the author wants to convey is that human freedom is indivisible and if it is reduced somewhere it ‘is reduced everywhere. Philip has enlisted himself in the cause for the “next fifty years”. Dorothy, a brainless American woman, cannot understand that: To Dorothy’s question why he won’t go with her anywhere after their marriage he replies “I have been to all those places and I have left them all behind. And where I go now I go alone, or with others who go there for the same reason I go.” Finally, he deserts Dorothy so that he is able to contribute his maximum to the cause of the Republic.

For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Whom the Bell Tolls is Hemingway’s most ambitious novel. It narrates what happens in the life of an American volunteer, Robert Jordan, who has been assigned the task of blowing up a bridge in the hills. Robert Jordan on his arrival in the cave when: the guerrillas are staying, behind the Fascist lines, finds that they are disorganised, and not very keen to fight because they have found a home and the blowing up of the bridge will necessitate a move and threaten their security which they have found in the hills. However, among the guerrillas there are two important characters to support Robert Jordan. Pilar, the gypsy woman, and Anselmo think that whatever the price they must blow up the bridge. Pablo, Pilar’s husband, who was once the leader of the Republicans in a small town, is sceptical of Robert Jordan’s venture.
In the cave, besides other characters, there is a girl called Maria, who had been raped by the Fascists earlier. She had been rescued by Pilar but even though the physical wounds had healed the psychic. wound is still painful. Robert and Maria are attracted to each other. Pilar, the gipsy woman, because of a sixth sense realises that Robert Jordan’s time is running out and he does not have much time to live. She instigates Maria to go to Robert Jordan’s sleeping bag at night. Their meeting and love-making heal Maria’s psychic wounds. The intensity of love that Robert Jordan and Maria experience is unrivalled in Hemingway elsewhere because it has a mystic quality in it.
One Fascist soldier on patrol duty comes near the cave and is t dead by Robert Jordan. Once this action has been taken it is inevitable that they will be discovered. Pablo steals detonators from Robert Jordan’s bag thus making the act of blowing up the bridge almost impossible. He throws them away into the stream. But in his loneliness he is obsessed with the guilt of desertion. He returns but without the detonators. The Fascist planes in the meanwhile have destroyed El Sardo and his gang who are supposed to help Robert Jordan in blowing up the bridge. Even with these handicaps Robert Jordan succeeds in blowing up the bridge and he himself is safe. When the Fascist reinforcements arrive they shoot at the retreating guerrillas and Robert Jordan’s horse is hit. With the fall of the horse Robert Jordan’s thigh bone is broken and he has to decide whether he should stay there to cover up the retreat of his companions or to go with them and risk the security of the entire group. For Robert Jordan, Maria has become a symbol of Spain, freedom, love and Heal womanhood. In spite of Maria’s entreaties Robert refuses to go with the guerillas because he has not only lived a full life but also in his stay lies the safety of the group. At the end of the book Robert Jordan is seen lying on a slope with his machine-gun aimed at the leader of the Fascist patrol.
The book is extremely uneven in quality but one cannot deny Hemingway’s talent in this book. In the opinion of certain critics when such momentous issues as democracy, fascism, human freedom, communism––in fact, the destiny of man––are being debated in the novel there is no room for an erotic relationship between Robert Jordan and Maria. They think that it is an interpolation. This was the last important novel written by Hemingway before the Second World War.
Across the River and Into the Trees
Across the River and Into the Trees is the story of Colonel, Cantwell. He is an ageing Colonel who suffers from a serious heart trouble. In Venice he enjoys duck-shooting, meets his very young beloved, Renata. drinks his favourite wines and liqueurs, and on his return quietly breathes his last. Throughout the book the Colonel gives went to his bitterness against the follies of war and his superiors. Renata is a dream girl who seldom comes to life. The Colonel exemplifies what a man ought to do in the face of death. It is a life of the senses which occupies an important place in Hemingway’s philosophy of life.
The book was pounced upon by critics and they declared that Hemingway as an artist was dead. The book has some merit but coming, as it does, from the pen of Hemingway it certainly is a climbdown. In this book Hemingway has failed to keep the aesthetic distance between himself and his hero.
The Old Man and the Sea
With the publication of The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway retrieved some of his lost reputation: It is the story of an. old Cuban fisherman, Santiago, who has been unlucky in not being able to catch any fish for eighty-four days. On the eighty-fifth day h goes out fishing all by himself far out into the sea. About noon he succeeds in striking a giant marlin. The fish is eighteen feet long two feet longer than the skiff in which Santiago is sailing. The fish starts towing the boat far into the sea because it will not surface until it tires. The fish does not surface for that day, that night, the next day and the next night. On the morning of the third day Santiago succeeds in killing the fish. He sets sail for the return journey. On the way the smell of the blood oozing out of the heart of the marlin attracts sharks. Santiago loses his harpoon in his first encounter with the sharks. He kills as many as he can with his improvised harpoon, club and oar. But they are too many and too powerful for him. Even though Santiago has not slept for two nights and practically survived on raw fish and on a bottle of water he wages a heroic battle against the sharks. In the process he doses every conceivable weapon and in the dark the sharks devour all the meat of the marlin, and all that Santiago is left with is the skeleton of the fish. When he returns to the island he carries his mast on his shoulder to his shack where he sleeps with his face downwards and his arms stretched. The next day Manolin, the boy who admires Santiago, sees him sleeping and cries, for his hands are bleeding and the old man is almost on the verge of death. Santiago wakes up and makes plans for the future but it is an illusion. Something broke in his chest during the ordeal against the sharks and it is not certain whether he would survive.
The story is extremely simple in plot and in its style of narration, but there was universal praise for the book. It won him a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In 1954, he was awarded Nobel Prize for “his style forming mastery of the art of modern narration.”
Islands in the Stream
Islands in the Stream is Hemingway’s posthumously published ‘latest novel. It is an inferior work of art but bridges the gap between Across the River and into the Trees and The Old Man and the Sea. Part I describes Thomas Hudson’s life with his three sons who come to spend their holidays with him. They fill in a void in their father’s life. Part II deals with Hudson’s sense of loss because his sons are killed : two in an automobile accident and the third by the Nazi anti-aircraft guns. It also delineates Hudson’s reconciliation with his first wife. Part III is an account of the chase of a Nazi submarine, and in the end the hero’s death is inevitable.
Mary Hemingway has brought this novel out with the help of Philip Young, and Charles Scribner (Hemingway’s publisher). It does not enhance Hemingway’s reputation, and perhaps Hemingway knew it. There are deliberate leaks that some more posthumous novels are on their way.
Short Story Writer
Recently a collection of stories about the Spanish Civil War has been published. The stories had appeared in different magazines in the late Thirties. They again do not add to much, except the number of short stories, written by Hemingway and published, goes up.
During his life time Hemingway has been writing short stories .and in the opinion of certain critics he is a better short-story writer than a novelist. Among his best known short stories are : The Killers, A Clean Well-Lighted Place, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Old Man at the Bridge, Fifty Grand, The Undefeated, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Hills Like White Elephants, Big Two––Hearted River, Soldier’s Rome, etc., etc.
Most of these stories describe man’s alienation from himself and from society. They either deal with war or violence or death and man’s reaction to these crises. The virtues that Hemingway seems to admire in his characters in these stories are courage, endurance and zeal. In other words, the words that Santiago utters with regard to himself : “A man can be destroyed but nor defeated” ––could be an epitaph for Hemingway’s other characters as well.

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