How did Ernest Hemingway use understatment in his fiction?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ernest Hemingway was famous for using understatement in his fiction and for being a great advocate of this technique. He once said that a good work of fiction should resemble an iceberg, in which the greatest part of the meaning of the story lies beneath the surface.  In other words, Hemingway's fiction often implies meanings rather the openly stating them. Hemingway expects his readers to be able to draw inferences from the details he provides.

A good (and brief) example of this technique can be found in his famous short story "Hills Like White Elephants ." In this story, two people -- a man and a woman -- sit in a Spanish railway station waiting for a train. They engage in a discussion in which the chief subject of conversation and disagreement (should the woman have an abortion?) is never made explicitly clear. In fact, the word "abortion" is never mentioned. In order to discover what the subject of discussion is, we have to listen to clues. Neither Hemingway nor the characters will come...

(The entire section contains 534 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team