Ernest Hemingway has had a profound effect on American literature. It can be argued that he, and others of his generation, could be cited as the pivot point between the Victorian and Freudian era of literature and the early modern writers which followed him. Often credited with the “Iceberg Theory” of short sentences which allows the reader to imagine a lot with few words, Hemingway helped to usher in a new style that while not wholly his, is often credited as his since he had been and possibly remains the most popular and remembered the writer that came out of the “Lost Generation.” Whether it was Ernest Hemingway specifically or whether he acted as a symbol between the past and the early modern era of American literature can be argued, however, when it comes to popular culture, history or other such ideas it isn’t usually so important who does it first, but rather, who is remembered for it and how that affects the following events in the timeline.
Hemingway’s origins were difficult. While on the face it seems he came from an upper middle class home with educated parents, his upbringing was mostly uneventful yet educational. The difficult part came with the onset of World War I.
Before World War I, war had often been viewed as a heroic event. After each war, a US General had become President of the United States with the likes of Grant after the Mexican-American and Civil War, Andrew Jackson after the War of 1812 and George Washington after the American Revolution. There were also lists of US Generals who had tried to become presidents but failed such as the likes of Winfield Scott and McClellan. This is mentioned in particular because after World War I, no US Generals from that war had become president and in fact, they hadn’t even come close. The closest instance of a military man becoming president would’ve been Herbert Hoover who managed the food supplies of the United States and specifically the Allies in the post-war when he had to contend with both France’s unwillingness to aid Russia during the Russian Revolution and a defeated, starving Germany. World War I was seen as a different kind of war. It wasn’t necessarily dishonorable, but neither existed portrayals of gallant men running over hills nor were there heroic charges as such was depicted as late as 1898 over San Juan in the Spanish-American War. This change in perception of war and how it was fought can provide the reader with some insight in how it would’ve affected all those involved, particularly Hemingway.
The preceding paragraph gives some reasons as to why Ernest Hemingway had wanted to join the military but was ultimately rejected. Still, the man who felt the need to be a hero and to be a man, wanted to take part in the war. Therefore, he signed up for the Red Cross and became a driver in Italy. While overseas he was struck by shrapnel and injured. There’s little doubt that his injury, coupled with those injuries he saw and those stories that he heard, had jaded his view of not only war but also affected his outlook on the world and the human condition.
Hemingway, like many others of his generation, were defined in part by World War I and the industrialized loss of human life that progress had wrought. Beliefs in country, religion and morality, which were once strong foundations of many western societies, were beginning to be questioned on a generational scale. While there were those who preceded them in history, there had never been such a large push all at once by a disillusioned society as what was ushered in through the titled, “Lost Generation.”
While not immediately written after World War I, The Snows of Kilimanjaro was one of many stories where Hemingway incorporated his beliefs into his stories. As mentioned within Bloom’s commentary on the short story, “…to people of the 20’s like Harry, the language and concepts of conventional morality had been exposed as pious fraud. They had taken us into a war and had brought us out of it without ever coming to grips with reality” (74). When once war had a requirement for the United States, the messaging was poor concerning World War I. The messaging in the Revolutionary War had liberty, the War of 1812 had issues of impressment and issues of trade which was destroying New England’s economy, the Mexican-American War had a myriad of excuses, the Civil War was for survival, and the Spanish-American War was meant as a means to retaliate against the destruction of the USS Maine. While not all of these messages were true, they remained consistent.
If we look at World War I, the reasoning for entering the war changed. First it was the Lusitania which had been destroyed by German submarines. Labeled as a passenger ship, it was discovered later that it was illegally transitioning munitions and other supplies into Britain. It was disregarded that many other US ships and American casualties had been suffered by the Germans which also weakened the importance of the Lusitania. After entering the war, President Wilson and communication changed, stating that it was a war to ensure democracy but this was difficult to connect while allied with the monarchic Russia still led by Tsar Nicholas II. Only when Russia fell into Civil War did the messaging become less muddied but it remained muddled. The claim that World War I was the war to end all wars showed a lie on the peace as the Soviets massacred the people in the countryside and continued their wars of consumption against newly created states like Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic nations. And the League of Nations, which was supposed to prevent continuous war, was left without teeth and, perhaps more importantly for those who served in World War I, went forward without the United States as a signatory. A maimed member of the military, or those who witnessed the battlefield, or even those who remained home suffering must’ve wondered after it had all ended: What was it all for?
Hemingway buried all of this inside as was expected of a man at the time. Freud had begun to have a breakthrough in psychology over the previous two decades and psychology was only just being born. Even today it remains in its infancy. Neither men nor women were supposed to talk about what was really going in their mind; it was only a few decades before when those who suffered from mental instability were locked away in attics or dropped off and forgotten in insane asylums.
After his recovery and the war, Hemingway chased after his desire to become a writer more professionally as he began writing for Kansas City and the Toronto Star. While a newspaper writer at the time wasn’t as concise or sharp as they are today, this may have been Hemingway’s own start to the iceberg theory which was later attributed to him. At the very least, it pushed him on the path to cut down on his unnecessary words and to shove the excess out of his way.
As an author, Hemingway was introduced to a professional after his meeting with Sherwood Anderson who was a best-selling author at the time. After their initial meeting, Anderson and Hemingway both got along well. Hemingway realized he had a lot to learn and it was clear that he was able to use Anderson and his contacts. When Hemingway had initially thought of returning to Italy, his World War I roots in order to write, Anderson had instead convinced Hemingway to go to Paris which was considered to be the cultural capital of the world at the time. It’s explained in detail in Hemingway’s Debt to Sherwood Anderson, “In the late fall of 1921 Sherwood Anderson wrote letters to Lewis Galantiére and Gertrude Stein in Paris introducing Ernest Hemingway, a ‘friend of mine and a very delightful man’” (510). Within the same article it was said that Hemingway treated Anderson with deference while rejecting and occasionally criticizing Anderson’s style concerning the unconscious. While there was some criticism, there was also some learning and Hemingway took full advantage.
Sigmund Freud had a definite effect on society, particularly within the world of fiction, where authors used his popular psychology, injecting it into their writing. Anderson was one author who took it full force as characters had numerous thoughts about doing something and then either taking action or inaction against that thought. This seemed to be an affront to Hemingway’s future style. As Pratt mentioned, signaling Hemingway’s work within the Toronto Star, “Writing about postwar Europe for the Toronto Star helped Hemingway shape his fiction writing. The huge amount of articles he produced challenged him to write as forcefully as he could, as fast as he could. There was no time to stop and think about the perfect place for a clever expression or a comma. And because he wired his stories to the newspaper by telegraph, Hemingway had to get to the point quickly” (28). There wasn’t much room available for Freudian thoughts on the front page.
After Hemingway’s trip to Paris and his return to the United States, Sherwood Anderson wrote his best seller, Dark Laughter. It was meant at an attempt to poke fun at the white population while using a healthy dose of Freudian thought and sexual liberation. Hemingway, perhaps due to his youth, couldn’t resist lampooning the novel in his own book titled after Ivan Turgenev’s book of the same title, The Torrents of Spring. Again, in Hemingway’s Debt to Sherwood Anderson, Flanagan notes, “The next year [Hemingway] wrote to Anderson from Madrid explaining that after reading that novel [Dark Laughter] he had proceeded to write The Torrents of Spring as a joke, since his own literary standards compelled him to criticize work of which he strongly disapproved. Subsequently Anderson recorded that he had received from Hemingway ‘the most self-conscious and probably the most completely patronizing letter ever written.’ Hemingway not only called attention to the speed with which he had composed his parody but denied that there was any value at all in Anderson’s own work. According to Anderson’s wry comment made much later, ‘It was a kind of funeral oration delivered over my grave’” (512). It was an unnecessary attack but it was a pivotal moment for Hemingway as it cut his friendly ties with those contacts he had made through Anderson. While he maintained loose contact with the likes of Pound, Stein and even Anderson, their relationships weren’t nearly as strong as they had been before the publishing of The Torrents of Spring.
While The Torrents of Spring is often neglected in favor of Hemingway’s other work, it is a notable book in that it’s the tipping point where an older way of writing had been laughed at. It wasn’t merely Hemingway’s poke at Anderson, but a poke at Anderson’s entire field of writing of which the likes of Gertrude Stein and numerous others of the previous generation had so warmly adopted. Flanagan himself comments that, “Hemingway also selected a theme which is central in much of Anderson’s fiction just as it was once central in his own life, the decision of his protagonist as he approaches middle age to turn over a new leaf, give up his business or occupation, desert his family, and wander over the world seeking adventure and possibly the meaning of life. … Like Anderson’s protagonists again, Scripps complains about the wife he has deserted to anyone who will listen. Indeed, Anderson’s reverent use of sex in his stories as something mystical and mysterious is a frequent butt for Hemingway’s ridicule” (513). This was, perhaps, even more painful for Anderson since he often put himself and his commentary within his own novels.
Within Dark Laughter there are a number of lines where we can see what might’ve drawn Hemingway to Anderson in the beginning. Or perhaps, even Anderson managed to learn something from Hemingway. Taken from Dark Laughter, Anderson wrote, “It took something in a man to be mad about anything. He had to have some juice in him to do that” (45). There were also reflections on the effects of World War I later in the novel, “They would try, however, to suppress their own knowledge. How natural and human to do so. In war or in peace we do not kill the man we hate. We try to kill the thing we hate in ourselves” (236). These lines, among few others, are very Hemingway-like in their simplicity, directness and style.
However, what is more likely to have bothered Hemingway was Anderson’s lengthy, and sometimes silly, paragraphs. Early in the novel, Anderson wrote, “Bernice got up and stood over him, staring down at him across the small table. How furious she was! Was she going to strike him? What a strange puzzled baffled look in her eyes. Bruce looked up at her impersonally – as he might have looked out a window at a scene in the street. She did not say anything” (50). He would repeat this style of writing throughout his book, “Why had he wanted to grow it? When he left Chicago and his wife he had cut out to a place called La Salle in Illinois and had started down the Illinois River in an open boat. Later he lost the boat and spent nearly two months, while he was growing the beard, in getting down river to New Orleans. It was a little trick he had always wanted to do. Since he was a kid and had read Huckleberry Finn, he had kept some such notion in mind. Nearly every man who lived long in the Mississippi Valley had that notion tucked away in him somewhere. The great river, lonely and empty now, was, in some queer way, like a lost river. It had come to represent the lost youth of Middle America perhaps. Song, laughter, profanity, the smell of goods…” (17). In the beginning the character questions himself about a beard before going into a lengthy discussion about what he, and everyone like him, thinks about the river. The reader can see the influences of Freud’s thoughts but those thoughts were quickly becoming outmoded. Hemingway retaliated.
Hemingway couldn’t help himself as he lavished at the thought of striking back at what he perceived to be the ridiculousness of Anderson’s writing. In The Torrents of Spring Hemingway joked, “He looked up. Facing him was a sign:
BROWN’S BEANERY THE BEST BY TEST
‘I wonder,’ Scripps asked an elderly waitress who came in through the swinging door from the kitchen, ‘If you could tell me if this is Brown’s Beanery?'” (16-7). This is a repeated joke that Hemingway uses as it mirrors much of what Anderson wrote in Dark Laughter. It’s very similar in the way that Bruce, in Anderson’s work, repeatedly questioned if Bernice was going to hit him. Indeed, these questions would pervade his novel.
Hemingway would repeat this act later.
“KEEP OUT. THIS MEANS YOU.
‘Can that mean me?’ Scripps wondered. He knocked on the door and went in” (28). Hemingway would lean in further with other parodies, most notably his Author’s Notes at the end of a few chapters. It was in this way that Hemingway poked fun at Anderson’s need to place him, and his opinions, into his novels even if it upset the pacing of the work or was out of character for his characters.
Still, it seems that Hemingway had almost immediately regretted his parody of Anderson. Flanagan notes, “In an undated letter to Anderson (written probably in 1926) Hemingway expressed his concern over wounded feelings. ‘I still feel badly about having ever written to you in an ex cathedral or ex-catheter – they have catheters as well as cathedrals over here – manner but I think that is just that the young have to be very sure always, because the show is really very tough and it is winning all the time and unless you know everything when you’re twenty-five you don’t stand a chance of knowing anything at all when it’s had time to shake down and you’re thirty-five” (517). This, of course, isn’t much of an apology but it’s the closest that would come out of Hemingway.
Hemingway’s remorse was repeated in the open in his later years. In The Art of the Short Story Hemingway penned, “I [parodied Anderson] because I was righteous, which is the worst thing you can be, and I thought he was going to pot the way he was writing and that I should kid him out of it by showing him how awful it was. So I wrote The Torrents of Spring. It was cruel to do, and it didn’t do any good, and he just wrote worse and worse. What the hell business of mine was it if he wanted to write badly? None. But then I was righteous and more loyal to writing than to my friend. I would have shot anybody then, not kill them, just shoot them a little, if I thought it would straighten them up and make them write again. Now I know that there is nothing you can do about any writer ever” (13). Again, it is a weak apology and it was a book Hemingway seems to think that he needed to write at the time even later in his life. While he said it was a bad thing to do to a friend, he doesn’t back away from his belief that Dark Laughter, Anderson and other books and writers like him, needed to be struck. In Hemingway’s way, he shot up the whole generation just a little.
Before The Torrents of Spring, Hemingway was in Paris meeting the likes of Pound and Stein. Focusing specifically on Gertrude Stein, she lavished incredible praise upon herself for not only recognizing Hemingway’s talent, but for attempting to take credit for it. Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas came out nearly a decade after Hemingway’s The Torrents of Spring. She had a fervent loyalty to Sherwood Anderson and Hemingway’s novella cut not only into Anderson, but Stein’s style as well. She didn’t recover from this slight as she recorded her venom in her book, “When Sherwood came to Paris Hemingway naturally was afraid. Sherwood as naturally was not.
“As I say he and Gertrude Stein were endlessly amusing on the subject. They admitted that Hemingway was yellow, he is, Gertrude Stein insisted, just like the flat-boat men on the Mississippi river as described by Mark Twain. But what a book, they both agreed, would be the real story of Hemingway, not those he writes but the confessions of the real Ernest Hemingway. It would be for another audience than the audience Hemingway now has but it would be very wonderful. And then they both agreed that they have a weakness for Hemingway because he is such a good pupil. He is a rotten pupil, I protested. You don’t understand, they both said, it is so flattering to have a pupil who does it without understanding it, in other words he takes training and anybody who takes training is a favourite pupil. They both admit it to be a weakness. … But what a story of the real Hem, and one he should tell himself but alas he never will. After all, as he himself once murmured, there is the career, the career” (255-6). Stein attacked Hemingway’s manhood by calling him “yellow” and had claimed that he was weak and “afraid.” Whereas Hemingway knew what he was doing when he parodied Anderson, he did it not personally, but professionally.
Hemingway also wrote The Torrents of Spring while he was young. Stein, however, was older and she made the point of attacking Hemingway personally because she felt a personal affront to him. She also had very strict loyalties to Sherwood Anderson. Here we recognize Stein’s biases in her own words, “Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson have always been the best of friends but I do not believe even he realizes how much his visit meant to her” (232-3). Her biases, self-congratulations and ego, of which she should’ve noted during her Freud-like writing, was flagrantly obvious throughout her autobiography. Much of her truths in the book could also be called into question since she did admit to writing it solely for the money, and what will bring in more money other than name dropping and turning on one of the most popular writers of the time, Ernest Hemingway?
However, Hemingway didn’t remain with those who were only older than him. Fitzgerald was one he had remained in contact with and got along with during his time in Paris as Hemingway detailed in A Movable Feast. Even Gertrude Stein, after her dispute with Hemingway, recorded that Fitzgerald and Hemingway always got along well, “They always however have a very good time when they meet. And the last time they met they had a good time with themselves and Hemingway” (258). She wasn’t always attacking Hemingway but she did so as often as she could which signifies the most significant break and retaliation from the preceding generation and shows that The Torrents of Spring had an incredible effect on Stein and her ilk. While The Torrents of Spring is hardly remembered today by popular culture, it undoubtedly created a split between the old and the new.
In spite of Gertrude Stein’s claims, perhaps the person who had the most impact on Hemingway’s writing was Ezra Pound. According to Hurwitz, Hemingway and Pound met randomly in a Parisian book shop in early 1922 where they got along famously and a professional and personal relationship began. Initially Hurwitz recorded that Hemingway was annoyed by Pound but after Pound had credited Hemingway’s Up In Michigan short story, Hemingway seemed to have changed his mind and by late 1922 they were getting along like close friends.
Together, Pound became a mentor to Hemingway and helped Hemingway to shape his writing in the sharp, concise way that he desired. Furthermore, Hurwitz expands that Pound had helped Hemingway publish Three Stories and Ten Poems after introducing him to publisher Robert McAlmon. After the introduction, Hemingway confessed he had lost a large portion of his writings but McAlmon suggested that Hemingway send him what remained to which Hemingway did and his work was published shortly after in 1923.
In his study, Hurwitz explained in detail Pound’s effect on Hemingway and his writing. He says the relationship was helped because Pound was a good loser when they played sports and was a great teacher in writing, “Also, they spent much time together discussing writers and writing, as well as playing tennis, dueling, and boxing. Although these extraliterary activities did not add much to Hemingway’s expertise, they were important in cementing the friendship and in making Hemingway receptive to criticism from Pound – perhaps because the young writer was the superior athlete and the poet a good-natured loser” (470). While Hemingway, during his Parisian years had gotten along well with Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, it appears that Ezra Pound had the greatest impact on Hemingway out of all of them. The relationship ultimately cooled when Pound moved to Rapallo in 1924 but for Hemingway’s loyalty to the friendship remained strong even in Pound’s later years.
In the mid-1930s James Joyce contacted Hemingway after having concerns over Pound’s mental state. Pound is one of the few people Hemingway would speak well of his entire life. In Hemingway’s Tutor, Ezra Pound, Hurwitz cited Hemingway’s last interview about Pound, “’Ezra was extremely intelligent on the subjects he really knew… Here it is simpler and better to… reaffirm my loyalty to Ezra as a great poet and a loyal friend'” (474). It is surprisingly to see how many credit Anderson or Stein with Hemingway’s rise while almost completely ignoring Ezra Pound when, through analysis and research, has shown that no one has had more lasting influence on Hemingway. If we compare the exchanges they had professionally and personally, no one had more influence on Hemingway other than Pound.
As cited earlier, it is obvious the likes of Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein had some similarities. When comparing Anderson, Stein and Hemingway to one another, Ardet began, “Louis Kronenberger endorsed Ashley’s claim about Anderson’s influence on Hemingway: ‘There are obvious traces of Sherwood Anderson in Mr. Hemingway and there are subtler traces of Gertrude Stein'” (1). Aside from simple anecdotes, Ardet strikes further, “Anderson, on the other hand, conjoins longer constituent structures than Hemingway, and his conjunctions are evenly spread out in his sample. Rarely do we find a sentence with more than two conjunctions” (4). Everyone is influenced in some way by the people they meet or those they’re close to so it’s clear to see Anderson’s influences and even some of Stein’s.
Stein, however, congratulates herself a bit too much. As her ego escapes her clutches throughout her autobiography, she writes, “Gertrude Stein never corrects any detail of anybody’s writing, she sticks strictly to general principles, the way of seeing what the writer chooses to see, and the relation between that vision and the way it gets down” (252). As Stein describes in her own words, if she could claim any credit at all, it should be merely as a guiding tool rather than an instructor.
Stein and Hemingway are quite different writers with few similarities. In Ardet’s deconstruction he notes, “Stein’s concept of action is illusory; she ‘creates the illusions of a figure in continuous motion by drawing repetitious lines of supposed motion around the body of the still figures…’ Action for Stein does not move progressively; rather, it is an enrichment of a static process. Her characters want to move, but when they find that the ‘things’ of life are too much for them, they crawl back to satisfy themselves with the idea of moving” (7-8). Stein, in spite of what she claims, seems to have had the least amount of influence on Hemingway when we compare her against every other writer that he knew and was in close contact with.
To further illustrate this point, we can see the separation. Ardet gets to the crux of the point with a simple sentence, “Superficially, Stein might be considered to have the ‘densest’ style among our three authors; her sentence length is 28.3 as compared to Hemingway’s 18.3 and to Anderson’s 22.1” (9). Throughout his article The Prose Style of Selected Works By Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, and Gertrude Stein, Ardet noted that Hemingway and Sherwood shared the most commonalities while Stein often had the least. While Ardet didn’t state this fact directly, it is ever-present throughout his article.
Ardet wasn’t the only one to note this fact. Ryan in his article, Dating Hemingway’s Early Style/Parsing Gertrude Stein’s Modernism, wrote, “The question of influence depends in part, of course, upon the dating of the original manuscripts. If the first version of the story, with its crucial third paragraph nearly identical to the published version, can be dated in the fall of 1921 when it is unlikely that… Hemingway could have been influenced by Stein, then the origin of the story’s repetitive style might lie elsewhere” (232). And based on his writings, Ryan adds, it’s unlikely that Hemingway even read Stein while he was in Chicago. In fact, citing Hemingway’s writings and the dates in which he wrote them, Ryan claims that Hemingway probably hadn’t read anything of Gertrude Stein until at least 1920-1921, which would make sense as that was around the time that Hemingway had met Sherwood Anderson.
Stein’s grandiose claims must also be taken lightly as she was known to exaggeration. In her autobiography, she wrote of Hemingway, “[Hemingway] was also a shadow-boxer, thanks to Sherwood, and he heard about bull-fighting from me. I have always loved Spanish dancing and Spanish bull-fighting and I loved to show the photographs of bull-fighter and bull-fighting. … In these days Hemingway was teaching some young chap how to box. … At any rate in these days Hemingway although a sportsman was easily tired. He used to get quite worn out walking from his house to ours. But then he had been worn by the war” (257). Little, and quite possibly none of this is true. Hemingway was a boxer even in his High School days and as mentioned in other articles, frequently sparred and instructed Ezra Pound how to box. This was learned by Hemingway well before he ever met Sherwood Anderson. And if we consider Hemingway’s fascination with Italy, and soon thereafter, Spanish culture, we could also surmise that he knew of bullfighting before he had met Gertrude Stein and Alice. Lastly, considering his bouts with Pound and carousing around Paris with Fitzgerald, her statements about Hemingway’s lack of stamina also comes into question. If we consider her comments about and against Hemingway, we must consider her an unreliable source. Many of her remarks on Hemingway seem to be residue left over from her anger toward The Torrents of Spring and how it lambasted her and her close friend, Sherwood Anderson.
It is interesting to note that one of the things Hemingway satirized about Anderson was something that Hemingway conducted throughout his writing. Hemingway’s character “Nick” who shows up throughout his short stories, often seems to resemble Hemingway and his life. In this way, he leans toward an autobiographical perspective without directly telling the audience as obvious as Anderson had. Throughout the many short stories Nick is featured in, he has to deal with an uncaring father, grows up in the outdoors, goes off to war, questions life and many things about it after the war and has numerous troubles with women. These ideas are the basic building blocks of who Hemingway was and are the main points on which he often wrote.
Furthermore, Anderson didn’t completely forget Hemingway. In 1936 after The Green Hills of Africa, Anderson commented on Hemingway, as Flanagan revealed, “[Sherwood Anderson] criticized Hemingway for ‘chucking the imaginative world.’ And then he told his correspondent, ‘you see what he does. He romanticizes what he calls the real world, gets ecstatic about shooting and killing, guts and dung.’ Anderson in other words criticized the very objective precision which Hemingway strove to reach, the specific and concrete details which were not made nebulous by the imagination” (511). This furthers the point that the influence that both Anderson and Stein had on Hemingway, that while it did exist, was negligible as the years pressed onward.
Ezra Pound is the foundation of Hemingway’s progress. Hurwitz commented, “…Hemingway’s heroes have had a dedication to their work that mirrors the author’s commitment to his, from Jake Barnes’ concern with his journalism to Santiago’s devotion to fishing. But in a way the Hemingway hero is also Poundian, especially in his compulsion for perfection and his impatience with incompetence, two qualities that Hemingway seems to have particularly admired” (480). Aside from the idea of how to use words and sentences, the extrapolation of a particular type of hero character also seems to have been inspired from Pound. While Anderson wrote honestly and used characters which were often based on himself, which Hemingway respected, those characters were often weak. Pound provided Hemingway with a different direction. In this way, Hemingway was able to combine a weak character with one who was also strong in different ways depending on the story. As much as he’d refrain from admitting the fact, Hemingway’s characters were often a part of him as much as Anderson’s characters reflected his own personality. Hemingway, however, was better at hiding the portrayal but only because Anderson was so obvious about it.
As it was mentioned previously, Nick in Hemingway’s short stories is often a stand-in for Hemingway himself. In Indian Camp, written in 1924, Hemingway comments on one of his popular subjects: death, “”Do many men kill themselves, Daddy?’
‘Not very many, Nick.’
‘Do many women?’
‘Don’t they ever?’
‘Oh, yes. They do sometimes.’
‘Where did Uncle George go?’
‘He’ll turn up all right.’
‘Is dying hard, Daddy?’
‘No, I think it’s pretty easy, Nick. It all depends'” (59). While Nick was a child, he saw the body of a man who had committed suicide shortly after the wife of the man had a difficult, but successful childbirth. Questions about life and death immediately arose. There is little doubt that this scene would be jarring toward a young boy, just as it would be jarring to a young man who went to war and worked with the Red Cross.
Nearly a decade later Hemingway remained autobiographical in A Clean Well-Lighted Place. Hemingway remained on the subject of death, “’Last week he tried to commit suicide,’ one waiter said.
‘He was in despair.’
‘How do you know it was nothing?
‘He has plenty of money’” (343). Hemingway often commented about suicide when he was speaking and it was obviously on his mind which was made obvious when he, too, ended his life in that way.
As Nick grows up there are even more similarities between Hemingway’s character and himself. Concerning his view on women, Hemingway puts himself back into his characters in The Three–Day Blow where Nick barely escapes marriage, “’Once a man’s married he’s absolutely bitched,’ Bill went on. ‘He hasn’t got anything more. Nothing. Not a damn thing. He’s done for you. You’ve seen the guys that get married.’
“Nick said nothing.
“‘You can tell them,’ Bill said. ‘They get this sort of fat married look. They’re done for’” (86). Hemingway had already had numerous problems with Hadley and his problems only persisted with women. Like Anderson, Hemingway injected himself in more people than just Nick as Hemingway continued his commentary against marriage and weak men in The Killers, “‘Bright boy can do everything,’ Max said. ‘He can cook and everything. You’d make some girl a nice wife, bright boy’” (210). Hemingway’s view on women stemmed from his hatred of his mother, which even he admitted. And in his short stories he admitted that a woman should never be with a man who couldn’t get along with his mother.
Hemingway’s perception of himself could also be seen as a flawed hero. While Pound definitely ushered him along, Hemingway probably viewed himself a strong, outdoorsy but sad and depressed man. In this way, we can see that Hemingway likely saw even himself as the flawed hero he famously brought into popular culture. While there has often been conflict with protagonists in books, plays and other mediums, they were often external factors whereas Hemingway’s was both external and internal. His flawed characters were at times more heroic, but also, more flawed.
We know the flaws were ever-present throughout Hemingway’s life. Saforava, when comparing Hemingway against Uzbekistani writing notes this as well, “This is a stoic hero who does not try to search the world for meaning” (303). While these comparisons show that there are similarities between cultures, particularly because an interesting story needs conflict, this furthers the idea that Pound pressed into Hemingway of certain characters needing to chase perfection and determination.
Finally, we notice a split between one generation and the other when Hemingway rails against symbolism and its necessity. In his The Art of the Short Story, he comments, “It is also untrue that if a gun hangs on the wall when you open up the story, it must be fired by page fourteen. The chances are, gentlemen, that if it hangs upon the wall, it will not even shoot” (4). This commentary extends into his work as in The Three-Day Blow where two characters were discussing a novel, “’It’s a swell book. What I wouldn’t ever understand was what good the sword would do. It would have to stay edge up all the time because if it went over flat you could roll right over it and it wouldn’t make any trouble.’
“‘It’s a symbol,’ Bill said.
“‘Sure,’ said Nick, ‘but it isn’t very practical’” (82). While Hemingway would use symbolism at times, he states here in his commentary and short story that objects should only be used for their purposes. It shouldn’t be placed there simply for symbolism that goes beyond the reality of the situation.
A changing of the guard came decades later. Just as Hemingway had split from the likes of Anderson and Stein, newer writers like Vonnegut began to split from Hemingway. In Burhans’ article, Hemingway and Vonnegut: Diminishing Vision in a Dying Age, he writes, “In one sense, of course, Vonnegut’s attack on the older man [in Vonnegut’s Happy Birthday, Wanda June] is subtly unfair; he satirizes Hemingway from a sensitivity to the ecological crisis dimly felt in Hemingway’s youth and young manhood and from a distaste for the masculine ethos largely foreign to Hemingway’s background; nor is Hemingway the only or necessarily the best reflector of the behavior and qualities Vonnegut derides” (173). It is interesting that Vonnegut satirized an elder in an unfair way in a similar way that Hemingway had satirized Anderson.
However, just like Hemingway had carried over some of Anderson’s traits, we can see Hemingway’s writing characteristics affected many young writers as his style was adopted throughout American school systems. But Hemingway and Vonnegut had more in common with one another than Hemingway and Anderson had. To cite these similarities, Burhans continues, “Hemingway and Vonnegut are Middle-Western Americans taken by events in their youth into the wider world. Both undergo in a world war a profoundly traumatic experience which becomes the center of their thought and art. Both reflect the new sense of reality which came to dominance in human consciousness in the middle and end of the nineteenth century. Both have similar views about the human condition and explore in their writing the problems of living in it” (174). In order to attempt to break from one generation, it seems apparent to attack the one which came before. As with Vonnegut, we see that he took parts of Hemingway just as Hemingway took parts of Anderson.
The main staple that most writers have been fed has been the Iceberg Theory which is often attributed to Hemingway. This is perhaps his biggest effect on modern writing. Commenting on the Theory of Omission, Johnston tells how Hemingway used it to write not only succinctly, but about himself, “Herein lies a central paradox: Hemingway the writer felt impelled to reveal, although obliquely, what Hemingway the private man wanted to obscure” (71). By saying little, Hemingway was not only able to make his sentences tighter and stricter, he was also free to refrain from elaborating on some of the personal themes within his work as was already noted when comparing Hemingway against Nick.
Aside from novels and story writing, Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory has extended to such avenues as content marketing. Within Relevance, Deckers writers, “What he could have said, but left out, was ‘The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of (the iceberg) being (visible) above (the) water(’s surface), (and the other seven-eighths of the iceberg being below the water’s surface).’ We understood what Hemingway meant, even without the added verbiage. In fact, we probably understood the sentence better.” Deckers’ point is made where he says that the readers aren’t stupid and they’re able to cross small gaps that the author leaves behind. One doesn’t need to write in a convoluted way or the writer risks confusion. Instead, as is similar in how Hemingway wrote, creating short, simple sentences allows for the masses to understand what is being written. Everyone has a brain and those who read fiction often have a great enough imagination to fill in any minor blips or holes that are created. And they aren’t accidental omissions, rather, the holes are placed in strategic ways for fluidity, pace and the ease of understanding.
While the Iceberg Theory or the Theory of Omission is often attributed to Hemingway, that question of the creator is often up for debate. Scott Donaldson, a scholar on American Literature spoke on the subject and said, “…[the Iceberg Theory was] part of the culture. Hemingway didn’t invent the idea. At least I assume he didn’t invent the idea. But the point is he didn’t invent the cultural dictate, dictum. Of Pound’s images of the architecture of the time. The writing and the music of the time. That less is more. And this is something that Pound very much insisted on… The best kind of writing is the least showy, the most apparently objective writing…” Again, we see Pound’s influence from another source and that the Iceberg Theory was more of a style by the writers from the “Lost Generation” and it wasn’t specifically owned by Hemingway.
The question of Hemingway’s ownership over the idea is further questioned by others. Paul Smith in Hemingway’s Early Manuscripts: The Theory and Practice of Omission wrote, “The theory [of omission] may well have been new to Hemingway. But most of his literary friends in Paris in the 1920s, like Ezra Pound, would have seen it as a version of the commonplace that the structures of literature, like the sentences of the language, imply more than they state and make us feel more than we know. (Incidentally, someone less considerate of young writers than Pound might have suggested that it was the literary equivalent of the law of gravitation.) Nevertheless, Hemingway remembered it as being new; and partly, I suspect, because its appearance was so dramatically appropriate to the events of those years. … Then after a row with Hadley and an unsuccessful day of fishing, he wrote ‘Out of Season,’ as he later told Fitzgerald, as ‘an almost literal transcription of what happened.’ It was the first story he was ‘able to write.. after losing everything,’ and it broke the ground for the remarkable achievement of 1924” (271). Again we can see that Hemingway didn’t formulate the idea himself, but rather it was floating in the Parisian expatriate culture at the time.
However, it bears repeating that it doesn’t necessarily matter who created it first, except for the purpose of credit, but who cultivated it and urged it forward. This immediately came from Pound but his actions after World War II and his mental decline in the 1930s, along with his less-popular medium, prevented him from becoming the face of the new idea. Instead, the popular writings, subjects and age of Hemingway all worked together so that he could be the face of the idea. Hemingway isn’t just a break from the old way of writing and ushering in the new, rather, it is an entire generation who created The Iceberg Theory while Hemingway carried it upon his back. In this way he exerted his, and his generation’s influence upon American literature even up to today. Instructors often tell students to cross out useless words and this is a trait instilled in Hemingway’s, or rather, the “Lost Generation’s” theory.
Ernest Hemingway sat on the cusp of a new age and took fierce advantage of it. He helped to bury his mentors before they had died, lashing out at their elaborate writing and old beliefs in how symbolism ought to be used. Through this change and his interactions with compatriots like Fitzgerald, Pound and many others, Hemingway cultivated an idea and a new form of writing which has persisted through our time. While not nearly as popular as many of his other stories, The Torrents of Spring remains a golden hinge on which modern writing hangs.
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