Themes and Meanings
Dark Laughter was published in September, 1925, and was an immediate popular success: By December of that year, it had gone through seven printings. Hemingway’s first book of stories, In Our Time, was published in October, and the generally kind reviewers noted Hemingway’s debt to Anderson. (The story “My Old Man,” for example, is very close in subject and tone to Anderson’s stories “I Want to Know Why” or “I’m a Fool.”) Throughout his career, Hemingway made a point to attack publicly other writers who had been helpful to him: In the posthumous A Moveable Feast (1964), for example, written about Hemingway’s Paris years of the early 1920’s, there are particularly biting portraits of Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway finished the first draft of The Sun Also Rises in the fall of 1925 (a novel whose hero, Jake Barnes, by the way, has a war wound, making it impossible for him to love), and he then spent the week of Thanksgiving writing this parody of Anderson and thus purging himself of his mentor’s influence. (Later, Hemingway would write to Anderson and describe The Torrents of Spring as a “lousy, snotty book.”)
Hemingway also used the novella to free himself from his publisher and to gain a more lucrative contract. In Our Time had been published by Boni and Liveright, thanks in part to the recommendation of Anderson, whom that firm also published. Boni and Liveright had contracted for Hemingway’s next two books, but when he sent them the manuscript of The Torrents of Spring, Horace Liveright, who had just published Dark Laughter a few months earlier, was forced to refuse this parody of one of the firm’s most famous writers. Thus, Hemingway was free to move...
(The entire section is 729 words.)