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Hemingway Short Stories Essay, Research Paper

Ernest Hemingway: His life and his stories Ernest Hemingway was man of many

words. He wrote many novels and short stories. Ernest Hemingway also led a hard

life. He often incorporated his life into his stories. His life and work was a

direct result of his life. Some of his stories show a direct relationship

between his life and his work. Looking at three of Hemingway’s short stories,

" Soldier’s Home," "A Cat in the Rain" and " A Clean

Well-Lighted Place, in terms of their relationship to events and experiences in

Hemingway’s own life. His stories from World War I reflect deeping despairs, and

a conviction that life ultimately was without meaning. Ernest Miller Hemingway

was born on July 21,1899, in Oak Park, Illinois. His father was the owner of a

prosperous real estate business. His father, Dr. Hemingway, imparted to Ernest

the importance of appearances, especially in public. Dr. Hemingway invented

surgical forceps for which he did not accept money. He believed that one should

not profit from something important for the good of mankind. Ernest’s father, a

man of high ideals, was very strict and censored the books he allowed his

children to read. He forbade his Ernest’s sister from studying ballet for it was

coeducational, and dancing together led to "hell and damnation" Grace

hall Hemingway, Ernest’s mother, considered herself pure and proper. She was a

dreamer who was upset at anything which disturbed her perception of the world as

beautiful. She hater dirty diapers, upset stomachs, and cleaning house; they

were not fit for a lady. She taught her children to always act with decorum. She

adored the singing of the birds and the smell of flowers. Her children were

expected to behave properly and to please her, always. Mrs. Hemingway treated

Ernest, when he was a small boy, as if he were a female baby doll and she

dressed him accordingly. This arrangement was all right until Ernest got to the

age when he wanted to be a "gun-toting Pawnee Bill". He began, at the

time, to pull away from his mother, and never forgave her for his humiliation.

The town of Oak Park, where Ernest grew up, was very old fashioned and quite

religious. The townspeople forbade the word "virgin" from appearing in

schoolbooks, and the word "breast" was questioned, though it appeared

in the Bible. Ernest loved to fish, canoe and explore the woods. When he

couldn’t get outside, he escaped to his room and read books. He loved to tell

stories to his classmates, often insisting that a friend listen to one of his

stories. In spite of his mother’s desire, he played on the football team at Oak

Park High School. As a student, Ernest was a perfectionist about his grammar and

studied English with a fervor. He contributed articles to the weekly school

newspaper. It seems that the principal did not approve of Ernest’s writings and

he complained, often, about the content of Ernest ’s articles. Ernest was clear

about his writing; he wanted people to "see and feel" and he wanted to

enjoy himself while writing. Ernest loved having fun. If nothing was happening,

mischievous Ernest made something happen. He would sometimes use forbidden words

just to create a ruckus. Ernest, though wild and crazy, was a warm, caring

individual. He loved the sea, mountains and the stars and hated anyone who saw

him a phony. During World War I, Ernest, rejected from service because of a bad

left eye, was an ambulance driver, in Italy, for the Red Cross. Ernest was

injured in his knee and recuperated in a hospital, tended by a caring nurse

named Agnes. He fell in love with this nurse. When he returned to the U.S. he

embellished his war stories he won a medal for bravery. The is similar to the

character Krebs in Hemingway” short story "Soldier’s Home." When

Krebs returned to the United States everyone had already told their war stories

and his were not as exciting. So he felt the need to embellish his stories. ‘

Krebs found that to be listened to at all he had to lie, and after he had done

this twice he, too, had a reaction against the war and against talking about

it."(Pg. 145 Hemingway) Hemingway was against telling people about the war

at first because it caused him such pain, but later he felt that he had to talk

about it. Ernest returned home after the war, rejected by the nurse whom he fell

in love. He would party late into the night and invite, to his house, people his

parents disapproved of. Ernest’s mother rejected him and he felt that he had to

move from home He moved in with a friend living in Chicago and he wrote articles

for the Toronto Star. In Chicago he met and then married Hadley Richardson . She

believed that he should spend all his time in writing, and bought him a

typewriter for his birthday. They decided that the best place for a writer to

live is Paris, where he could devote himself to his writing. He said, at the

time, that the most difficult thing to write about was being a man. They could

not live on the income from his stories and so Ernest, again, wrote for the

Toronto Star. Ernest took Hadley to Italy to show her where he had been during

the war. He was devastated, everything had changed, and everything was

destroyed. Hadley became pregnant and was sick all the time. She and Ernest

decided to move to Canada. Hadley gave birth to a boy who they named John Hadley

Nicano Hemingway. Even though he had his family Ernest was unhappy and decided

to return to Paris. Ernest was still unhappy with his wife and son. They decided

to divorce. After he divorced Hadely He married four other times, to Pauline

Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn, and Mary Welsh. In 1953 he went on a safari with

Mary, and he was in heaven hunting big game. Though Ernest had a serious

accident, and later became ill, he could never admit that he had any weaknesses;

nothing would stop him, certainly not pain. In 1954 he won the Nobel Prize for

literature. Toward the end, Ernest started to travel again, but almost the way

that someone does whom knows that he will soon die. He suddenly started becoming

paranoid and too forgets things. He became obsessed with sin; his upbringing was

over feeling like a bad person, as his father, mother and grandfather had taught

him. In the last year of his life, he lived inside of his dreams, similar to his

mother, who he hated with all his heart. He was suicidal and had electrical

shock treatments for his depression and strange behavior On a Sunday morning,

July 2, 1961, Ernest Miller Hemingway killed himself with a shotgun. Ernest

Hemingway takes much of the storylines of his short stories from his personal

experiences. In "Soldier’s Home" Hemingway expresses the alienation

from bourgeois American culture that many returning soldiers felt. Harold Krebs,

who is the main character in the story, feels this alienation when he returns to

the U.S. He came back much later than the other soldiers. Everyone heard the

same stories from all the soldiers, so Krebs felt the need to lie about the

stories to make people listen and so he would feel like he belonged. Krebs is

the story’s protagonist. He is bored with his town and disgusted by his parent’s

bland piety. He also felt isolated from his family and their world. Hemingway

put his experiences of when he came back from the war in this story. He

incorporated the fact that he also embellished his own war stories to be

accepted when he came back. Hemingway was also alienated form his family when he

came back from the war. His family was against him going to the war in the first

place, and when the nurse that he fell in love with dumped him, he began to

party and drink a lot more that usual. His family was against that, so they

banished him from his home. Hemingway’s own values were stated explicitly in the

story, where he wrote, "Krebs acquired the nausea in regard to the

experience that is the result of untruth or exaggeration"(Pg. 146

Hemingway) The Hemingway pattern had begun by contrasting life and war,

devaluating one in terms of the other. Now life became only another indication

of war. As a soldier, Krebs had preserved his sanity by rebelling quietly and

alone. Hemingway began to make some notes for a short story to be called

"Cat in the Rain" It was about himself and Hadley and the manager and

the chambermaid at the Hotel Splendide. "There were only two Americans

stopping at the hotel," it began. "They did not know any of the people

they passed on the stairs? Their room was on the second floor facing the sea.

It also faced the public garden and the war monument?The American wife stood

at the window looking out?(Pg. 167, Hemingway) these are the notes Hemingway

took down. The American wife and husband he is describing are himself and

Hadley. The story "Cat in the rain" is basically describing the

disintegration of Hemingway’s marriage to Hadely. This is a deceptively simple

story about a young American, married couple vacationing in Italy. As her

husband reads, the wife looks out of a window and notices a cat crouching

underneath a table to evade the rain. Motivated by compassion as well as

boredom, she decides to go get the cat, but the cat was no longer there. She

therefore returns to the room. Still reading, the husband tells her to

"Shut up and get something to read"(Pg170 Hemingway) The husband’s

crass words in conjunction with his inattentive attitude characterized him as a

stereotypical male who sees little benefit in taking his wife seriously. Her

need seem uncomplicated, even meager, yet he ignores them. The way the husband

is and the way he is acting shows the marriage of Hemingway and Hadley coming

apart. The story reflects certain strains in the marriage that Hemingway went

through with his wife, like communication. In one of the stories, " A

Clean, Well-Lighted Place," there is a good description of the world that

underlies Hemingway’s world of violent action. In the early stages of the story

there is an old man sitting late in a Spanish cafй. The two waiters’ are

speaking about him. "Last week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter

said. "Why?" "He was in despair" "What about?"

"Nothing" "How do you know it is nothing?" "He has

plenty of money" (Pg. 379, Hemingway) The despair is beyond plenty of

money, or beyond all the other gifts of the world. It’s nature becomes a little

clearer at the end of the story when the older of the two waiters is left alone,

reluctant too to leave the clean, well-lighted place: "Turning off the

electric light he continued the conversation with himself. It is the light of

course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want

music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with

dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear?

It was not fear or dread. It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a

nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it

needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but

he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada pues nada. Our nada who art in nada,

nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada.

Give us this nada our daily nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not nada but

deliver us from nada pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with

thee. He smiled and stood before a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee

machine. (Pg383, Hemingway) And the sleepless man, the man obsessed by death, by

the meaninglessness of the world, by nothingness, by nada, is one of the

recurring symbols in the work of Hemingway. Death is the great nada. Toward the

end of Hemingway’s life there became more noticeable relationships between his

life and his writing. "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" was a good example.

The nada that is talked about in the story is not only thought about in the

story but in Hemingway’s mind. The fact that one of the characters in the story

was suicidal, very depressed and was in despair about nothing portrays

Hemingway. The sleepless man is Hemingway in this story. In more than one

occasion Hemingway describes himself as being obsessed with death and since

death is the great nada, it leads to Hemingway’s suicide. Hemingway portrays

himself in all of these stories. Whether it’s Krebs the alienated soldier, the

American husband in an Italian hotel, whose marriage is disintegrating, or the

sleepless man in the Spanish cafй obsessed with death. After Hemingway

comes home from World War I he loses the nurse that he falls in love with and

becomes alienated from his parents. Soon after he marries a woman, but that

falls apart, and then he finally becomes obsessed with nothing. He becomes

suicidal and obsessed with death. "A Clean-Well Lighted Place" was the

best description for Hemingway’s suicidal tendencies. Once he became suicidal

and depressed his stories reflected deeping despairs and were seen even clearer

as a conviction that life was ultimately without meaning.


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