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ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S WORKS ARE CONSIDERED CLASSICS OF AMERICAN LITERATURE

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ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Miller Hemingway (1899-1961) was an American novelist, short story writer, journalist and sportsman. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th Century fiction. Hemingway’s writings include themes of love, war, travel, wilderness and loss. Hemingway often wrote about Americans abroad. In most of his novels, the protagonist is abroad, bilingual and bicultural.  Hemingway published seven novels, six short story collections and three non-fiction works. Noted for the intense masculinity of his writing and his adventurous and widely publicized life, his succinct and lucid prose style exerted a powerful influence on American and British fiction in the 20th century.

Hemingway led an adventurous life. After high school, he was a reporter for a few months for the Kansas City Star before leaving for the Italian front to work as an ambulance driver in World War I. In 1918, he was seriously wounded and returned home. His wartime experiences formed the basis for his novel” A Farewell to Arms”(1929) 

In 1921 he moved to Paris. Whilst working in Paris as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, he was encouraged by other American writers, Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. He began there to see his non-journalistic work appear in print and the first important book –the collection of stories called “In Our Time” was published in New York City in 1925. It was earlier released in Paris in 1924. In Paris he fell under the influence of modernist writers and artists of the 1920’s and the Lost Generation expatriate community,

In 1926 he published “The Sun also rises” a novel with which he scored his first solid success. It is pessimistic but a sparkling book which deals with a group of aimless expatriates in France and Spain – members of the post war Lost Generation. Hemingway’s, other work, “The Torrents of Spring” is a parody of the American writer Sherwood Anderson’s book” Dark Laughter” which also appeared in 1926.   

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), Hemingway made four trips there as a correspondent. The Fifth Column (1938) he wrote is set in a besieged Madrid. As in many of his books, the protagonist of the play is based on the author and the part he played in assisting the Republicans against General Franco’s forces.

The harvest of Hemingway’s considerable experience in Spain in war and peace, was the novel, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1940), a substantial and impressive work which some critics consider his finest novel, in preference to “A Farewell to Arms”. All his life, Hemingway was fascinated by war and in “A Farewell to Arms” he focused on its pointlessness and in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” he focuses on the comradeship it creates.

During the Second World War, Hemingway was present with the Allied troops as a journalist during the Normandy landings and the Liberation of Paris. He almost died in 1954 after plane crashes on successive days. The injuries left him in pain and ill health for much of the rest of his life,

In 1953, he received the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his “The Old Man and the Sea” (1952).This book also paved the way for his receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. “The Old Man and the Sea” is a short heroic novel about an Old Cuban fisherman who after an extended struggle, hooks and boats a giant marline only to have it eaten by voracious sharks during the long voyage home. We can trace some of its origins, to his stay at his estate in Cuba.  

Hemingway’s characters embody his own values and views on life. The main characters of “The Sun also Rises,” “A Farewell to Arms” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” are young men whose strength and self confidence co-exist with a sensitivity that leaves them deeply scarred by their war time experiences.

War for Hemingway was a potent symbol of the world, which he viewed as complex and filled with moral ambiguities and offering almost unavoidable pain, hurt and destruction. To survive in such a world and perhaps even emerge victorious, one must conduct oneself with honour, courage and dignity, seen as a set of principles known as the Hemingway code. He seems to think that to behave well in the lonely, losing battle of life is to show grace under pressure and constitutes in itself a kind of victory, a theme he clearly established in “The Old Man and the Sea”.

His position as a master of short fiction had been advanced with the story, ”Men without Women” (1927) and established with “ Winner Take Nothing”  in 1933. Among his finest stories are: “The Killer”, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, ”The Snows of Kilimanjaro. The novel “A Farewell to Arms” (1929) however overshadowed such works. In this novel reaching back to his experience as a young soldier in Italy, Hemingway developed a grim but lyrical novel of great power fusing love story with war story, based on his personal life.

Tragically, scarred by wars and his four marriages, in the end Hemingway committed suicide by killing himself with a shotgun.

Compiled by Janina Gomes

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