The Torrents of Spring Characters (Ernest Hemingway)

Ernest Hemingway

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Characters in a parody such as The Torrents of Spring are necessarily stiff and stereotypical in order for the satire to work. The speech of Scripps and Yogi is full of literary allusions (to Willa Cather, H. G. Wells, et al.), as their thoughts are crowded with historical figures (Igor Stravinsky, the Haymarket anarchists). Yet their behavior is actually quite stupid: When Scripps first enters the pump-factory, for example, he is met by a sign that reads: “KEEP OUT THIS MEANS YOU. Can that mean me? Scripps wondered.” Through the Fielding epigraphs, Hemingway implies that he is satirizing the ridiculous affectations of people, and especially literary affectations among his contemporaries. Characters here are always dropping literary names— Huysmans, Ruth Suckow—and quoting, or misquoting, other writers. (“What is it that old writing fellow Shakespeare says: Might makes right’?” Scripps misremembers at one point.)

In Scripps and Yogi, Hemingway is also parodying the particular kind of primitives for which Sherwood Anderson was famous. Anderson was one of the first American writers to apply Freudian theory to literary creation, and, in his most famous work, the stories of Winesburg, Ohio (1919), one can see Sigmund Freud’s influence clearly in the rendering of internal thought and feeling. In such later works as Dark Laughter, however, Anderson’s obsession with the inner lives of his characters verges on...

(The entire section is 408 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Scripps O’Neil

Scripps O’Neil, who claims to have published two stories in The Dial and one in The Saturday Evening Post. He also claims to be a Harvard man. O’Neil is tall and lean. Deserted by his wife and daughter Lucy in Mancelona, Michigan, O’Neil wanders down the railroad tracks to Petoskey and goes to work in the pump factory as a piston-collarer. It is mentioned that his father was a great composer, that his mother is from Florence, Italy, and that he and his mother had to beg from door to door in Chicago when Scripps was a boy, but much of what is said about Scripps in this satirical work is contradictory. He also claims that his father was a general in the Confederate Army and that his mother, with Scripps clinging to her dress, berated General Sherman as the Yankees burned the O’Neil plantation. O’Neil, who is “literary” and romantically fickle, takes many of his meals in Brown’s Beanery, where he falls in love with and marries Diana, an elderly waitress. He soon rejects her for Mandy, a younger waitress. Scripps inexplicably carries a bird inside his shirt through much of the story. He finally gives the bird to Diana. Scripps is with Mandy at the story’s end, but his mind is wandering.

Yogi Johnson

Yogi Johnson, a World War I veteran. Johnson is of Scandinavian descent and works in a Petoskey, Michigan, pump factory. He is a chunky, well-built fellow, of the sort one might see anywhere. He claims to have been the first World War I volunteer from Cadillac, Michigan. Yogi is worried because he does not want to be with a woman; he fears that something is wrong. A philosopher, he often remarks on the decay of morality in his time. He meets two American Indians and tells them of his experiences both playing center in football and at the front, where he killed five men. Yogi speaks of the stages a soldier goes through as he becomes hard-boiled. The Indians take Yogi to an all-Indian private club, which he is forced to leave hurriedly when it is noticed that he is not an Indian. He takes the Indians to Brown’s Beanery, a local restaurant, where he relates his most humiliating experience: In Paris, Yogi had...

(The entire section is 899 words.)