Hemingway, Ernest (Short Story Criticism)
Ernest Hemingway 1899–-1961
American novelist, short story and novella writer, dramatist, poet, journalist, essayist, and memoirist.
The following entry presents criticism of Hemingway's short fiction works from 1995 to 2002. See also Ernest Hemingway Criticism (Introduction), and Volumes 1, 3, 6, 8, 10, 13.
Hemingway is lauded as one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century. Considered a master of the understated prose style that became his trademark, he was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in literature. Although his literary stature is secure, he remains a highly controversial writer, and his novels and short stories have evoked an enormous amount of critical commentary. His narrow range of characters and his thematic focus on violence and machismo, as well as his terse, objective prose, have led some critics to regard his fiction as shallow and insensitive. Others claim that beneath the deceptively limited surface lies a complex and fully realized fictional world. Although Hemingway's literary achievement has been measured chiefly by his novels The Sun Also Rises (1926) and A Farewell to Arms (1929), and his novella The Old Man and the Sea (1952), his short stories have increasingly won critical acclaim. Today, works of both genres are widely read, and Hemingway remains one of the most imitated writers in modern literature.
Born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois, by strict Congregationalist parents, Hemingway had a fairly happy, upper-middle-class childhood. By his teens he had become interested in literature, and he wrote a weekly column for his high school newspaper and contributed poems and stories to the school magazine. Upon his graduation in 1917, he took a junior reporter position on the Kansas City Star, covering the police and hospital beats and writing feature stories. Of tremendous impact to Hemingway's development as a writer was his participation in World War I as a Red Cross ambulance driver in Italy. Wounded in both legs by a shrapnel explosion near the front lines, he returned to the United States a decorated hero. He eventually returned to journalism to support himself, contributing features to the Toronto Star.
Following his first marriage in 1921, Hemingway returned to Europe to launch a writing career. For the next seven years, Hemingway resided principally in France, though he traveled frequently, covering the Greco-Turkish War of 1922 and writing special-interest pieces for the Toronto newspaper. During this period Hemingway matured as a writer, greatly aided in his artistic development by his close contact with several of the most prominent writers of the time, including Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He eventually quit journalism, though he periodically returned to the medium, serving as a correspondent during several major wars. By the middle of the 1940s, however, a variety of recurrent physical ailments had severely curtailed his creative energy. In 1960 Hemingway suffered a mental breakdown and was admitted to the Mayo Clinic for electrotherapy treatments. His depressive behavior and other illnesses persisted, and Hemingway committed suicide the following year.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Hemingway's power and originality as a writer of compressed, impressionistic sketches became apparent with in our time (1924). A series of eighteen brief, untitled chapters stemming from Hemingway's war and journalistic experiences, this work was revised, greatly expanded, and published in the United States a year later as In Our Time. The American version included fifteen complete short stories with the remaining vignettes serving as interchapters.
By the appearance of his next story collection, Men without Women (1927), Hemingway's literary reputation—as the author of The Sun Also Rises and consequent chronicler of the “lost generation”—was all but solidified. While the 1930s were Hemingway's most prolific years, he published little of lasting significance, save for the short story collection Winner Take Nothing (1933) and an assemblage of forty-nine stories, published with the play The Fifth Column, which incorporated such widely anthologized stories as “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”
Although Hemingway’s most significant works include such renowned novels as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)—as well as his Pulitzer Prize-winning novella, The Old Man and the Sea—critical response to these works has been varied. His short stories, however, particularly those in In Our Time, are consistently considered some of his finest efforts. There has been a myriad of criticism on Hemingway’s short fiction; collections and individual works have been examined from autobiographical, sociopolitical, psychoanalytical, and feminist perspectives. Hemingway’s influence as a short story writer has also been a recurrent topic of critical discussion, and his spare, understated narrative style is considered Hemingway’s literary legacy. His colorful life and work has garnered unrelenting critical and popular attention, and he is generally regarded as one of the greatest American short story writers of the twentieth century.
Three Stories & Ten Poems (short stories and poetry) 1923
*in our time 1924
Men without Women 1927
Winner Take Nothing 1933
The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway 1938
The Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories (drama and short stories) 1939
The Old Man and the Sea (novella) 1952
The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and Other Stories 1961
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, and Other Stories 1963
The Nick Adams Stories 1972
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway 1987
The Sun Also Rises [also published as Fiesta] (novel) 1926
The Torrents of Spring (novel) 1926
A Farewell to Arms (novel) 1929
Death in the Afternoon (nonfiction) 1932
Green Hills of Africa (nonfiction) 1935
To Have and Have Not (novel) 1937
The Spanish Earth (commentary and film narration) 1938
For Whom the Bell Tolls (novel) 1940
Across the River and Into the Trees (novel) 1950
A Moveable Feast (memoir) 1964
By-Line: Ernest Hemingway: Selected...
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SOURCE: Summerhayes, Don. “Fish Story: Ways of Telling in ‘Big Two-Hearted River.’” The Hemingway Review 15, no. 1 (fall 1995): 10-26.
[In the following essay, Summerhayes examines Hemingway's use of language in “Big Two-Hearted River.”]
We've reached a stage of modernity where it is very difficult to accept innocently the idea of a “work of fiction”; from now on, our works are works of language; fiction can pass through them, contacted obliquely, indirectly present.
What do I want to communicate but what a hell of a good time I had writing it? The whole thing is performance and prowess and feats of association. Why don't critics talk about those things—what a feat it was to turn that that way, and what a feat it was to remember that, to be reminded of that by this. Why don't they talk about that?
It was really more fun than anything. That was really why you did it. He had never realized that before. It wasn't conscience. It was simply that it was the greatest pleasure. It had more bite to it than anything else. It was so damn hard to write well, too.
Near the end of “Big Two-Hearted River,” as Nick...
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SOURCE: Lamb, Robert Paul. “Hemingway's Critique of Anti-Semitism: Semiotic Confusion in ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.’” Studies in Short Fiction 33, no. 1 (winter 1996): 25-34.
[In the following essay, Lamb contends that Hemingway uses a semiotic approach to critique anti-Semitism in “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.”]
Hemingway's “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” (1933) seems, at first glance, a scant story; consequently, it has been the subject of only three brief scholarly essays, none of which has appeared in the past two decades. Peter Hays reads the story as a modern revision of the legend of the Fisher King; Julian Smith sees it as an analeptic tale told by Jake Barnes of The Sun Also Rises with the narrator's identity withheld; and George Monteiro believes that its main interest lies in the light it sheds on Hemingway's attitude toward Christianity and the medical profession but faults it for having an unnecessary and insubstantial first-person narrator who is not meaningfully connected to the plot.1 The main problem with these readings is that either they implicitly view the story as thin and are therefore compelled to read it through a speculative (in Smith's case, a wildly speculative) intertext, or else they are left with the important questions Monteiro raises: why tell the story through a nearly anonymous narrator?; and, what on earth can the point of the...
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SOURCE: Lamb, Robert Paul. “Hemingway and the Creation of Twentieth-Century Dialogue.” Twentieth Century Literature 42, no. 4 (winter 1996): 453-80.
[In the following essay, Lamb analyzes the dialogue in “Indian Camp,” “A Canary for One," and “Hills Like White Elephants.”]
[W]hile one can do nothing about choosing one's relatives, one can, as artist, choose one's “ancestors.” … Hemingway [was] an “ancestor.”
—Ralph Ellison (140)
In July 1961, the Saturday Review devoted a special memorial issue to Ernest Hemingway, in which writers and critics from around the world paid tribute to the recently deceased author and attempted to assess his impact on their own national literatures. Although the Hemingway mystique was given heavy emphasis, many contributors also spoke to his artistic influence. The exiled Spanish political philosopher Salvador de Madariage observed that “Hemingway's manner of writing, his direct, simple, yet forceful prose” had “exerted an undoubted influence on the new generation of Spanish novelists” (18). From Italy, novelist Carlo Levi credited Hemingway's art as fundamental “in determining the character and mode of thought of our time” (19). And Alan Pryce-Jones, the former editor of the Times Literary Supplement, asserted that there was “not a living writer in...
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SOURCE: Strong, Amy. “Screaming Through Silence: The Violence of Race in ‘Indian Camp’ and ‘The Doctor and The Doctor's Wife.’” The Hemingway Review 16, no. 1 (fall 1996): 18-32.
[In the following essay, Strong elucidates the way in which Hemingway “negotiates the matter of race” in “Indian Camp” and “The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife.”]
In her recent work of literary criticism, Playing in the Dark, Toni Morrison calls our attention to the way critics have ignored an abiding Africanist presence that weaves its way through the works of white American authors:
There seems to be a more or less tacit agreement among literary scholars that, because American literature has been clearly the preserve of white male views, genius, and power, those views, genius, and power are without relationship to and removed from the overwhelming presence of black people in the United States. … The contemplation of this black presence is central to any understanding of our national literature and should not be permitted to hover at the margins of the literary imagination.
While my focus in this essay will be on the lack of an Indian (rather than Africanist) presence, I will explore the ways Hemingway negotiates the matter of “race” and racial difference in two short stories from In Our Time....
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SOURCE: Ferrero, David J. “Nikki Adams and the Limits of Gender Criticism.” The Hemingway Review 17, no. 2 (spring 1998): 18-30.
[In the following essay, Ferrero explores the usefulness of gender criticism in Hemingway's short fiction.]
Hemingway is the perfect straw man for feminist critics. And in many ways he was asking for it. Witness his sometimes self-parodic machismo; his preoccupation with war, boxing, hunting and bullfighting; his string of divorces; his celebration of the masculine in much of his writing after 1930. Yet this view distorts our understanding of much Hemingway fiction. This is especially true of the Nick Adams stories from In Our Time. I am thinking in particular of “The End of Something” and “The Three-Day Blow,” which concern Nick's efforts to define and negotiate relationships with men and women, and “Cross-Country Snow,” which explores Nick's attempt to come to terms with the demands of paternity within the institution of monogamous marriage. In “The End of Something” Nick awkwardly, abruptly, and somewhat cruelly breaks up with his girlfriend Marjorie. In its sequel, “The Three-Day Blow,” Nick's friend Bill helps him work through the breakup by getting him drunk and taking him hunting; the story ends with Nick getting over Marjorie and re-establishing camaraderie with his male companions. In “Cross-Country Snow” Nick and his friends...
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SOURCE: Brogan, Jacqueline Vaught. “Hemingway's In Our Time: A Cubist Anatomy.” The Hemingway Review 17, no. 2 (spring 1998): 31-46.
[In the following essay, Brogan investigates the genre and aesthetics of In Our Time.]
We know that the final long version of In Our Time, specifically the 1925 short story collection and its 1930 reprinting with “On the Quai at Smyrna” as “Introduction by the Author,” was in no way initially planned by the young artist Ernest Hemingway. Starting from the early, short, and visually interesting collection of vignettes—the three mountains press in our time of 1923—Hemingway seems to have devised and rejected various ordering principles for his first sustained work, recasting certain sketches as named stories, and in the long version, deleting Nick Adams as the possible implied author.1 These facts, taken with the complicated publishing history of the various stories constituting In Our Time, account in part for the long and troubling debate about both the genre and aesthetics governing the work: Should we regard In Our Time as a mere collection of short stories (as “Stories by Ernest Hemingway” on the title page implies)? Should we regard it as a short story cycle (as Hemingway's obvious indebtedness to Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and James Joyce's Dubliners also implies)? Or should we...
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SOURCE: Stewart, Matthew C. “Ernest Hemingway and World War I: Combatting Recent Psychobiographical Reassessments, Restoring the War.” Papers on Language and Literature 36, no. 2 (spring 2000): 115-217.
[In the following essay, Stewart attempts to refute revisionist arguments about the influence of World War I on Hemingway's fiction.]
“Napoleon taught Stendahl how to write.”
To ask whether or not the First World War had a profound effect upon Ernest Hemingway would, not so long ago, have been considered a rhetorical question. It can no longer be considered so, since the influential critics Kenneth S. Lynn and Frederick Crews have sought to dismiss the importance of World War I from Hemingway's life and fiction.1 The mainstream interpretation, which held sway well into the 1980s, had been advanced in most detail by Philip Young, whose breadth of analysis and psychoanalytical bent amplified the theory of the wound first advanced by Edmund Wilson. Although he did not speak as extensively of the wound theory, Malcolm Cowley had already marked out Hemingway's First World War experiences as a turning point in his life as early as 1945.
Following Cowley and Young, many a teacher taught many a student that Hemingway was badly wounded at the war—wounded inside as well as outside. The...
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SOURCE: Lindsay, Creighton. “Hemingway's Nexus of Pastoral and Tragedy.” CLA Journal 43, no. 4 (June 2000): 454-78.
[In the following essay, Lindsay suggests that Hemingway fuses the traditions of the pastoral and tragedy in his writing.]
Less than three weeks before his death by suicide in the summer of 1961, Ernest Hemingway wrote to the ailing son of a friend that he was “very cheerful about things in general.”1 The discrepancy between Hemingway's chatty tone and the inner turmoil of his life in his final days stands as a poignant symbol of the ironies and contrasts, the opposition of macho surface and fragile psyche, that we have come to see as so representative of his life and fiction. Hemingway had been staying at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and had enjoyed the countryside that surrounded the town and the nearby Mississippi River, and it is noteworthy that the better part of one of his last letters is taken up with consolation through enthusiasm for the natural landscape: “Saw some good bass jump in the river. I never knew anything about the upper Mississippi before and it is really a very beautiful country and there are plenty of pheasants and ducks in the fall” (921). One senses here a spontaneous and first-hand confidence that nature affords solace during convalescence, as if Hemingway wished to convey his own deeply held conviction that nature, even nature...
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SOURCE: Helstern, Linda Lizut. “Indians, Woodcraft, and the Construction of White Masculinity: The Boyhood of Nick Adams.” The Hemingway Review 20, no. 1 (fall 2000): 61-78.
[In the following essay, Helstern investigates the ways in which white masculinity gets constructed in the Nick Adams stories.]
Indians, to use the common but problematic term, captured Ernest Hemingway's imagination at a very early age. His first full sentence—“‘I don't know Buffalo Bill’”—was duly recorded by his mother in 1901. He would soon assert, “‘I not a Dutch dolly, I Pawnee Bill. Bang. I shoot Fweetee’” (cited in Baker 4-5). The little boy, who also acted out scenes from Longfellow's Hiawatha with his sister in the role of Minnehaha, had already seen his first wild west show—Pawnee Bill's Historical Wild West and Indian Exposition—by the time he was two (Baker 4-5). The fantasy of becoming “the White Chief of the Pawnees” was one the young Hemingway undoubtedly shared with many of his generation, for the number of Wild West shows touring as family entertainment reached its all-time high in the first years of the 20th century (Russell 11; 68). Here, in fictional re-creations of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the massacre at Wounded Knee, Indians were both the savage enemy and, with their values but not their warrior instincts restructured, scouts who joined the cavalry to save...
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SOURCE: Tilton, Margaret A. “Garnering an Opinion: A Double Look at Nick's Surrogate Mother and Her Relationship to Dr. Adams in Hemingway's ‘Ten Little Indians.’” The Hemingway Review 20, no. 1 (fall 2000): 79-89.
[In the following essay, Tilton examines the behavior of Mrs. Garner in the story “Ten Indians.”]
Ernest Hemingway's short story “Ten Indians” involves a cast of predominantly male characters, for the Garner and Adams families include five men and only one woman. Many readers have interpreted this woman, Mrs. Garner, as sympathetic and nurturing. Joseph Flora, for example, praises her for being “relaxed (but not lax) in her roles as mother and wife,” a decided contrast to Nick's absent mother (46). Paul Smith finds the Garners in general, and Mrs. Garner in particular, to be “a standard for … what is diminished or missing from the scene at Nick's home” (“Tenth Indian” 54). Paul Wadden praises “the communal glow of the Garners' kitchen” (5), certainly attributable to Mrs. Garner, as it's she who starts a fire in the stove.
While much of “Ten Indians” supports these benevolent views of Mrs. Garner, however, her behavior is at times puzzling and inconsistent. Some passages offer a decidedly different picture than that of the nurturing mother and hint that Mrs. Garner can occasionally be spiteful. She also focuses on separating the children...
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SOURCE: Nolan, Charles J. “Hemingway's ‘The Sea Change’: What Close Reading and Evolutionary Psychology Reveal.” The Hemingway Review 21, no. 1 (fall 2001): 53-67.
[In the following essay, Nolan provides a close reading of a much neglected story “The Sea Change,” in order to demonstrate Hemingway's artistry.]
In a wide-ranging but rather petulant letter of 16 November 1933 to Maxwell Perkins, complaining about the response of various critics to his short fiction, Hemingway listed “The Sea Change” and several other stories as “invent[ed] completely.” They were not, as one commentator had charged, merely a reporter's transcription of actual events like some of his other works. “The point is,” he went on, “I want them all to sound as though they really happened. Then when I succeed those poor dumb pricks say they are all just skillful reporting” (SL 400). Over twenty-five years later, in 1959, he gave a different account of the story's genesis in “The Art of the Short Story,” a preface for what was to be a student edition of his short works: “In … ‘The Sea Change,’ everything is left out. I had seen the couple in the Bar Basque in St. Jean de Luz and I knew the story too too well, which is the squared root of well, and use any well you like except mine. So I left the story out. But it was all there. It is not visible but it is there” (Flora, Ernest...
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SOURCE: Cohen, Milton. “‘There Was a Woman Having a Kid’—From Her Point of View: An Unpublished Draft of In Our Time's Chapter 11.” The Hemingway Review 22, no. 1 (fall 2002): 105–08.
[In the following essay, Cohen contrasts the treatment of a central female character in an unpublished draft entitled “Exodus” against its published version within In Our Time.]
Readers of Hemingway's early work know that, contrary to the claims of Hemingphobes, it often portrays women sympathetically in “unhappily-ever-after” love affairs. “Hills Like White Elephants,” “Out of Season” and “Cat in the Rain” feature oafish, manipulative, or indifferent men oblivious to their frustrated, sometimes desperate mates. In “Up in Michigan,” Hemingway even violates a taboo of Fiction Writing 101 by writing partly from the woman's point of view: Far more vividly than it depicts Jim Gilmore's lust, the story evokes Liz Coates's confused arousal, shock at Jim's brutality and bleak despair afterwards1
The interchapters of In Our Time, on the other hand, pointedly ignore women. The worlds illumined in their sudden flashes—war, crime, politics, and bullfighting—are distinctly male and violent, coolly rendered, many of them, by anonymous narrators in objective points of view. Women appear in only two chapters: a vestigial queen dips a rose bush in...
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DeFazio, Jr., Albert J. “Current Bibliography: Annotated.” Hemingway Review 21, no. 2 (spring 2002): 159–67.
Adair, William. “Hemingway's ‘A Veteran Visits His Old Front’: Images and Situations for the Fiction.” ANQ 8, no. 1 (winter 1995): 27-30.
Discusses approaches to teaching “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” in the classroom.
Berman, Ron. “Vaudeville Philosophers: ‘The Killers.’” Twentieth Century Literature 45, no. 1 (spring 1999): 79-93.
Considers the “Vaudeville philosophy” in “The Killers.”
Bond, Adrian. “Being Operated On: Hemingway's ‘The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio.’” Studies in Short Fiction 34, no. 3 (summer 1997): 371-78.
Argues that injury is a plot element in “The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio.”
Bosha, Francis J. “Ernest Hemingway and The New Yorker: The Harold Ross Files.” The Hemingway Review 21, no. 1 (fall 2001): 93-9.
Offers a close reading of “My Own Life.”
Bush, Lyall. “Consuming Hemingway: ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ in the Postmodern Classroom.” The Journal of Narrative Technique 25, no. 1 (winter 1995): 23-46.
Addresses approaches to teaching...
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