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Ernest Hemingway And Symbolism Essay, Research Paper

Ernest Miller Hemingway is a well-known American author who wrote in the

twentieth century. He has written several novels such as, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom

the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea. The Sun Also Rises was finished on April

1, 1926 and was published in October of 1926 (Selkirk 96, Bruccoli 75). The Sun Also

Rises was Hemingway’s expression of his own life. He had changed the names of his

friends and some of the details, but the real identities of the characters were obvious to

anyone in Paris (Selkirk 92). The Sun Also Rises encapsulates the angst of the

post-World War I generation, know as the Lost Generation. This poignantly beautiful

story of a group of American and English expatriates on a sojourn from Paris to

Pamplona represents a dramatic step forward for Hemingway’s evolving style. Featuring

Left Bank Paris in the 1920’s and brutally realistic descriptions of bullfighting in Spain,

the story is about the flamboyant Lady Brett Ashley and the hapless Jake Barnes (Wilson

4). Ernest Miller Hemingway is an American author who has penned several novels and

short stories; one of his works is The Sun Also Rises.

Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. Hemingway was

raised with the conservative Midwestern values of strong religion, hard work, physical

fitness and self-determination; if one adhered to these parameters, he was taught, he

would be ensured of success in whatever field he chose (Wilson 1). As a boy, he was

taught by his father to hunt and fish. When he wasn’t hunting or fishing his mother taught

him the finer points of music. Hemingway never had a knack for music and suffered

through choir practices and cello lessons, however the musical knowledge he acquired

from his mother helped him share in his first wife Hadley’s interest in the piano (1).

Hemingway received his formal schooling in the Oak Park public school system. In high

school he was mediocre at sports, playing football, swimming, water basketball and

serving as the track team manager (1). He also worked on the school newspaper called the

Trapeze. Hemingway graduated in the spring of 1917 and instead of going to college the

following fall like his parents expected, he took a job as a reporter for the Kansas City

Star (Hemingway preface). Hemingway signed up as a volunteer ambulance driver for the

Red Cross during WWI (Wilson 2). He was accepted in December of 1917, left his job at

the paper in April of 1918, and sailed for Europe in May (2). When Hemingway returned

home from Italy in January of 1919 he found Oak Park dull compared to the adventures

of war (3). With a letter of introduction from Sherwood Anderson, Hemingway met some

of Paris’ prominent writers and artists and forged quick friendships with them during his

first few years (4). Counted among those friends were Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia

Beach, James Joyce, Max Eastman, Lincoln Steffens and Wyndahm Lewis, and he was

acquainted with the painters Miro and Picasso (4). Hemingway was inspired to write

different works at different times because of the events that occured in his life.

Hemingway died July 2, 1961, at his home, as the result of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Ernest Hemingway had a different style of writing than the other authors in his

time. “The Sun Also Rises is the book that established Hemingway as a literary force and

it introduced the world to the Lost Generation” (Wilson 5). The Lost Generation is

referred to as the disillusioned that fought in the war. “Two of the novel’s main

characters, Lady Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes, typify the Lost Generation” (1). “This

book has a lot of thematic issues, but the reader really needs to think to be able to pick up

on all of them” (2). Friendship, stoicism, and natural grace under pressure are offered as

the values that matter in an otherwise amoral often-senseless world (1). “His mind is set

on writing only” (3). The only thing Hemingway thought about was writing and finishing

The Sun Also Rises. “The writing is as strong and powerful as a swift kick to the head”

(4). This quote is referring to Hemingway’s strong and complex style of writing.

“Hemingway writes about the dreariness of everyday life but it is interesting at the

emphasis on drinking during the age of prohibition” (3). “The only failing is that the

messages he delivers are a little empty in that we know he delivers them in a way that we

like (4). His morals are hard to understand unless you can achieve his state of mind.

The main characters of the novel are Jake Barnes, Brett Ashley, Robert Cohn, and Pedro

Romero. While the characters are realistically drawn, each has a sort of representative

quality that defines his or her relationship with the group and with the age in which the

novel is set. Jake Barnes has his war wound, which robs him of the ability to have sex

though not the desire; he is capable of survival and communication though not

regeneration. Robert Cohn’s Jewishness marks him for exclusion and underlines the

snobbishness of this circle even in its apparent informality. However, he is alienated more

by his stubborn chivalry and romanticism, expressed in his constant seriousness and his

obsessive attachment to Brett. Brett is the promiscuous femme fatale; Mike is the

indiscreet alcoholic; Bill Gorton is the perceptive joker (who makes the sustained

reference to stuffed dogs). The overall plot concern of understanding is summarized by

the minor but important character of the count:” That is the secret. You must get to know

the values” (Hemingway 60). He has searched for meaning all of his life and has found it

in understanding the values. Most of the other characters have yet to find the values. Jake

is still stuck in the past, unable to get beyond the permanence of his war wound. Yet, he

can still envision of future with Brett. Brett, who will always remain in her conquests’

memories, is trying to forget herself in drink and meaningless sex. In spite of this, she can

clearly and accurately visualize the improbability of any future with Jake. One of the

main themes of The Sun Also Rises is impotence. Not only Jake’s physical impotence, but

also the powerlessness of the bull in the face of its imminent cruel death, the characters’

barrenness of emotion and lack of sensitivity, their ineffectiveness, alcoholism, and

failure to work out some sort of meaningful “personal philosophy” and an “exhausted

cynicism?. Hemingway shows war wounds as the destroyer of love: Jake pursues love

without sex and Brett pursues sex without love. Other themes found under the umbrella

of impotence are: lack of family, rootlessness, nihilism, and alienation, being from

somewhere else and being cut off from the past. It is the cyclical nature of the novel,

heralded in the second epigraph (from Ecclesiastics): “One generation passeth away, and

another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever . . . The sun also riseth, and the

sun goeth down . . . All the rivers run into the sea . . . unto the place from whence the

rivers come, thither they return again.”

The Sun Also Rises was Hemingway’s best-selling novel and is still a popular

book today. The Sun Also Rises was about the events that were taking place in

Hemingway’s life. The Sun Also Rises can be related to real life by accepting the fact that

it was written from a man’s real life experience.

The symbolism in A Farewell to Arms is very much apparent. Ernest

Hemingway has always been one who is big on the symbolism of night as

being bad. To the main character in Hemingway’s novels, nights have

always been a sign of death, or something negative to happen. Another

one of the symbolisms in A Farewell to Arms is when Henry tries to

escape from the Italian army by jumping off one of the ships the army

was traveling on and running away from the army. This symbolism was

the water that he jumped into was a symbolism of the new, clean life

that he was going to live from now on. At this time, Henry goes off

and finds his wife to be.

The material objects that Hemingway uses to convey the theme are beer, the

good and bad hillsides, and a railroad station between two tracks. The beer

represents the couple?s, ?the American? and ?the girl?s?, usual routine activity they do

together. This bothers the girl because ?that?s all [they] do ? look at things and try

new drinks.? This shows that the girl is tired of doing the same thing and wants to do

something different, like having a baby and a family, instead of fooling around all the

time. She wants to stop being a girl and become a woman. Hemingway then

presents the reader with two contrasting hills. One hill on one side of the station is

dull, desolate, and barren; ?it had no shade and no trees?, very desert like. However,

the other hill on the other side of the station is beautiful, plentiful in nature, and had

?fields of grain and tress along the banks of the Ebro River.? Also on each side of the

station where each hill is, there is a train track. These objects are symbolic devices

prepare the reader in realizing that the characters are in a place of decision. The

railroad station is a place of decision where one must decide to go one way or the

other. The tracks symbolize either decision that the girl must make. By the looks of

the environment around each track, it is clear what kind of destination each track

leads to. This proves that the girl must decide whether she wants her body and life to

become barren and desolate or plentiful and beautiful. If she chooses abortion, then,

of course, she will choose the track with the desolate hills because her body will

become a barren desert where no life will abide. On the other hand if she wants to

have the baby, she will choose the track which is surrounded by the plentiful and

beautiful hills, because her body will be a genisis. Either way, this clearly conveys the

theme of abortion by showing that the girl must make a life or death decision.

Along with symbolic objects, three symbolic characters further develop the

theme of abortion. The three characters are ?the girl?, ?the American?, and ?the

woman.? The girl symbolizes youth, innocence, and na?vety. She is ignorant to her

final decision of having an abortion, because she is so young and is still in the prime

of her life, experiencing new things everyday. Hemingway uses her to show a young

pregnant girl trying to decide if having the baby will ruin her youthfulness, ruin her

relationship, or in contrast make her a woman. She is getting tired of the same old

routine, mentioned before, so her choice is to do something different, to have the

baby, to become a woman, and leave her childish ways for good. The only thing that

stands in her way of her decision is ?the American.? The American symbolizes an

individualist who wants to do things his way. Usually Americans have a laid back

attitude and don?t want to mess with anything complicated, as does the American in

this story. The American supports the theme by opposing the girl and saying that the

baby ?is the only thing that bothers? them. He talks of a certain simple ?Operation?

in which the doctors will simply ?let the air in.? ?The American[?s]? talk of the

?Operation? further justifies abortion as the theme because the doctors putting the

air inside of her, referrs to taking a fetus out of her womb. The man is more

concerned with the effects of the baby ruining his life more than hers due to the fact

that the man says the baby is the only thing that ?bothers [them], when in actuality

the woman approves of the baby. This also proves the ?Operation? is an abortion

because the usual case of abortions is: a woman gets pregnant, then the man gets

scared, and tells the woman to get an abortion because the baby will ruin both of

their lives. Next is the character of the woman who shows contrast, and supports the

qualities of ?the girl?. She is called ?the woman? because she is older, and the reader

is to assume, wiser, and experienced. The ?girl? talks about ?having a fine time? and

?trying new drinks? which shows that she is still young, living a life of ease,

experiencing a lot of things, where as the woman brings these ?new drinks? to the girl.

This displays the woman as mature, older, and experienced because she is working

instead of ?trying new drinks?, and ?having a fine time.? She is no longer yound

leisurely trying new drinks, she is working trying to earn a living. She is an indirect

supportive device of the theme in that she the opposite image of what the girl is. The

woman further defines the symbolic qualities of the girl, in other words.

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