What is the theme of Hemingway's novel The Torrents of Spring?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Since the aim of Hemingway's novel The Torrents of Spring, the title a literary allusion to The Torrents of Spring (1872) by Ivan Turgenev, is to parody writers' literary style and literary background and affectations, it is hard to identify a discrete thematic message. It might come closest to identifying a theme to point out, as explained by Masterplots (available from eNotes), that Hemingway was answering in a negative, disapproving vein the assertion of writers like Sherwood Anderson and Eugene O'Neil that the lives of American Indian tribes of the era were a remedy for the deadening, disorienting affect of ever-increasing industrialization on American urban life.

Hemingway had a habit of parodying writers who had given him assistance in finding his authorial voice and sparse style, writers such as Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In The Torrents of Spring, he is extending that habit by parodying Sherwood Anderson's work, especially the novel Dark Laughter. Besides ridding himself of the influence of such writers who had lent him aid, Hemingway has two targets in mind when parodying Anderson.

Firstly, his primary aim is parody (i.e., imitation of another writer for comic ridicule) of Anderson's literary style, which in some regards was like Hemingway's own as Anderson was the first to try to write literary works in simple, stripped down American vernacular, or commonplace, language. Secondly, his aim in parodying is to stand back and laugh at the pretension of literary background and, in his view, affectations of Anderson and other contemporaneous literary authors. This aim has an interesting way of revealing Hemingway's own literary background because it reveals his own breadth and depth of literary knowledge through all his many literary allusions, allusions that span from the Russian Turgenev to the poet Percy Bysshe Shelly to Hemingway's contemporary Ford maddox Ford.

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