Ernest Hemingway Analysis

Other Literary Forms

During the four decades in which Ernest Hemingway worked at his craft, he published seven novels, a collection of fictional sketches, and two nonfiction accounts of his experiences in Spain and in Africa; he also edited a collection of war stories and produced a considerable number of magazine and newspaper articles. The latter have been collected in posthumous editions. Manuscripts of two unfinished novels, a series of personal reminiscences, and a longer version of a bullfighting chronicle have been edited and published posthumously as well. In 1981, Hemingway’s first biographer, Carlos Baker, brought out an edition of the writer’s correspondence.


After spending a decade in relative obscurity, Ernest Hemingway finally became a best-selling author with the appearance of A Farewell to Arms in 1929. His long association with the publishing firm Charles Scribner’s Sons, where the legendary Max Perkins was his editor for more than two decades, assured him wide publicity and a large audience. His passion for high adventure and his escapades as a womanizer made him as famous for his lifestyle as for his literary accomplishments.

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) was selected to receive the Pulitzer Prize in 1940, but the award was vetoed. In 1952, the Pulitzer committee did give its annual prize to The Old Man and the Sea (1952). Two years later, Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Even more significant than these personal awards has been the influence that Hemingway has exerted on American letters. His spare style has become a model for authors, especially short-story writers. Further, Hemingway has received significant critical attention, though not all of it laudatory. His tough, macho attitude toward life and his treatment of women have been the subjects of hostile reviews by feminist critics during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Other literary forms

Ernest Hemingway will be best remembered for his novels and short stories, though critical debate rages over whether his literary reputation rests more firmly on the former or the latter. In his own time, he was known to popular reading audiences for his newspaper dispatches and for his essays in popular magazines. He wrote, in addition, a treatise on bullfighting (Death in the Afternoon, 1932), which is still considered the most authoritative treatment of the subject in English; an account of big-game hunting (Green Hills of Africa, 1935); two plays (Today Is Friday, pb. 1926, and The Fifth Column, pb. 1938); and reminiscences of his experiences in Paris during the 1920’s (A Moveable Feast, 1964).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

There is little question that Ernest Hemingway will be remembered as one of the outstanding prose stylists in American literary history, and it was for his contributions in this area that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, two years after the publication of The Old Man and the Sea. The general reader has often been more intrigued by Hemingway’s exploits—hunting, fishing, and living dangerously—than by his virtues as an artist. Ironically, he is often thought of now primarily as the chronicler of the so-called lost generation of the 1920’s, a phrase that he heard from Gertrude Stein and incorporated into The Sun Also Rises as an epigraph. The Hemingway “code,” which originated as a prescription for living in the post-World War I decade, has become a catchphrase for academicians and general readers alike.

Discussion Topics

What do the stories in Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time owe to experiences of his boyhood life, including the influence of his physician father?

What is the essence of Hemingway’s famous style?

Does this style owe more to Hemingway’s journalistic training or to his early friendships with writers such as Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson?

With reference to the Lost Generation characters in works such as The Sun Also Rises, is the point that they were lost themselves or that they had lost certain basic values?

The title For Whom the Bell Tolls comes from a meditation by John Donne. How does the plot of this novel reflect Donne’s conviction about human connectedness?

How does Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea exemplify Hemingway’s definition of courage?

What instances of Spanish cultural influences are found in Hemingway’s fiction?


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Benson, Jackson J., ed. New Critical Approaches to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990. Section 1 covers critical approaches to Hemingway’s most important long fiction; section 2 concentrates on story techniques and themes; section 3 focuses on critical interpretations of the most important stories; section 4 provides an overview of Hemingway criticism; section 5 contains a comprehensive checklist of Hemingway short fiction criticism from 1975 to 1989.

Berman, Ronald. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the Twenties. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001. An explication of the cultural context of the era and how the works of these two American writers are imbued with the attitudes and icons of their day.

Berman, Ronald. “Vaudeville Philosophers: ‘The Killers.’” Twentieth Century Literature 45 (Spring, 1999): 79-93. Discusses the influence of the modernist reevaluation of vaudeville on Ernest Hemingway’s short story; notes that Hemingway’s interest in vaudeville resulted from its pervasive presence in society and its acceptance in the intellectual world; argues that vaudeville scripts inspired Hemingway’s interest in the juxtaposition of urban sophistication and rural idiocy.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Ernest Hemingway. Broomall, Pa.: Chelsea House, 2000. Includes articles by a variety of critics who treat topics such as Hemingway’s style, unifying devices, and visual techniques.

Burgess, Anthony. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999. Originally published in 1978 as Ernest Hemingway and His World. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Dubus, Andre. “A Hemingway Story.” The Kenyon Review, n.s. 19 (Spring, 1997): 141-147. Dubus, a respected short-story writer himself, discusses Hemingway’s “In Another Country.” States that, whereas he once thought the story was about the futility of cures, since becoming disabled he has come to understand that it is about healing.

Flora, Joseph M. Ernest Hemingway: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1989. An introduction to Hemingway’s short fiction that focuses on the importance of reading the stories within the literary context Hemingway creates for them in the collections In Our Time, Winner Take Nothing, and Men Without Women. Argues that Hemingway devises an echo effect in which one story reflects another.

Hays, Peter L. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Continuum, 1990. A brief but instructive overview of Hemingway’s life and his achievement as a writer. Offers brief critical summaries of the novels and many short stories. Contains a useful chronology.

Hotchner, A. E. Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir. New ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999. Written by one of Hemingway’s close friends, an editor, novelist, playwright, and biographer. Originally published in 1966, this Hemingway Centennial Edition features a new introduction.

Lamb, Robert Paul. “The Love Song of Harold Krebs: Form, Argument, and Meaning in Hemingway’s ‘Soldier’s Home.’” The Hemingway Review 14 (Spring, 1995): 18-36. Claims that the story concerns both war trauma and a conflict between mother and son. Discusses the structure of the story; argues that by ignoring the story’s form, one misses the manner of Hemingway’s narrative argument and the considerable art that underlies it.

Leonard, John. “‘A Man of the World’ and ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’: Hemingway’s Unified View of Old Age.” The Hemingway Review 13 (Spring, 1994): 62-73. Compares the two Hemingway stories in terms of the theme of age. Notes also the themes of aloneness, consolation of light, loss of sexuality and physical prowess, depression, violence, and the need for dignity.

Mellow, James R. Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992. A well-informed, sensitive handling of the life and work by a seasoned biographer.

Nolan, Charles J., Jr. “Hemingway’s Complicated Enquiry in Men Without Women.” Studies in Short Fiction 32 (Spring, 1995): 217-222. Examines the theme of homosexuality in “A Simple Enquiry” from Hemingway’s Men Without Women. Argues that the characters in the story are enigmatic, revealing their complexity only after one has looked carefully at what they do and say.

Reynolds, Michael. The Young Hemingway. New York: Blackwell, 1986.

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The Paris Years. New York: Blackwell, 1989. (See Magill’s Literary Annual review)

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The American Homecoming. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992. (See Magill’s Literary Annual review)

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The 1930’s. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997. (See Magill’s Literary Annual review)

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The Final Years. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. (See Magill’s Literary Annual review) Reynolds’s multivolume, painstaking biography is devoted to the evolution of Hemingway’s life and writing.

Tetlow, Wendolyn E. Hemingway’s “In Our Time”: Lyrical Dimensions. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1992. Argues that the collection is a “coherent, integral work” unified by such elements as the character Nick Adams, image patterns, symbols, and recurrent themes. Claims the book is analogous to a poetic sequence, a group of works that tend to interact as an organic whole. Discusses the lyrical elements in Hemingway’s self-conscious juxtaposition of stories and interchapters.

Wagner-Martin, Linda, ed. Hemingway: Seven Decades of Criticism. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998. A collection of essays ranging from Gertrude Stein’s 1923 review of Hemingway’s stories to recent responses to The Garden of Eden. Includes essays on “Indian Camp,” “Hills Like White Elephants,” and In Our Time as self-begetting fiction.

Weber, Ronald. Hemingway’s Art of Non-Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. For a review of this work see Magill’s Literary Annual review.