Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

Sierra Club


I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes.


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Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 - July 2, 1961) was an American author. He was born in Oak Park, Illinois; died in Ketchum, Idaho. His awards include: Silver Medal of Military Valor (medaglia d'argento) in World War I; Pulitzer Prize in 1953 (for The Old Man and the Sea); Nobel Prize in literature in 1954 (also for The Old Man and the Sea).

Death and violence were the two great constants in Hemingway's troubled, chaotic life. As an infant, he joined his father on hunting trips. At ten, he got his first shotgun. Fifty-one years later, he used a gun to kill himself. In the meantime, he had hurt many and many had hurt him. He was a tough, strong man with strong principles. Hemingway "believed that life was a tragedy and knew it could only have one end", yet he was blessed with talent and drive. That may have made it harder for him to admit his failures and correct them.

Famous at Twenty-Five Thirty a Master

The Hemingway style rocked the literary scene when it first arrived. It seemed simple on the surface, but was a revolution in a time when Victorian writing with neo-Gothic decorations still governed the literary world. And beneath the surface of this "simple" style lie allegorical structures of real complexity. Hemingway's style was no natural gift. It was the reward for his immense hurts and efforts and it was, and still is, the epitome of the modern movement. In Paris, many authors lent the young Hemingway a helping hand, and helped shape his style. After marrying, the Hemingways decided to live abroad for a while, and, following the advice of Sherwood Anderson, they picked Paris, where Ernest could develop his literary skills better than anywhere else. His first professional influence had been his time as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. The Kansas City Star Style Book, which was a guideline the newspaper had established, had lain the foundations for his later art. "Brevity, a reconciliation of vigour with smoothness, the positive approach" were its main directives and the young Ernest was willing to adopt them as his personal standard. Sherwood Anderson wrote him a letter of recommendation to Gertrude Stein. She became his mentor and opened him the door to the Parisian Modern Movement. His other mentor was Ezra Pound, the founder of Imagism. In retrospective, Hemingway once said about them: "Ezra was right half the time, and when he was wrong, he was so wrong you were never in any doubt about it. Gertrude was always right." He even considered giving Mr. Pound the Nobel Prize gold medal. At the same time, he became a close friend of James Joyce whose Ulysses with its stream-of-consciousness techniques had a tremendous impact on the literary scene. These authors and many others met at Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare & Co., 18 Rue de l'Odéon, Paris. But the last impulse he required came in an unsuspected and painful way. His manuscripts, among them A Farewell to Arms were stolen at Gare de Lyon when his wife wanted to bring them along to Lausanne to meet him. This loss was a big gain after all, because by re-writing the novel he had also time to reconsider, thus improving it. The second version was a great deal less flowery, stripped of all decoration, reduced to the bare essentials, matter-of-factly, concentrated and compressed. During this peaceful life among friends, he was able to develop his literary skills, in times of war, inspired by death, he would use them.

From Boy to Man Hemingways First World War

Hemingway once wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald: "We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get a damned hurt use it - don't cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist." Hemingway's first hurts were so grave it took him nearly ten years to write them down in a novel. When he arrived in Europe, he was just another young hotshot out for adventure. En route to the Italian front, he stopped in Paris. The city was under constant bombardment from German siege guns. Instead of staying in the relative safety of the Hotel Florida, Ernest asked the cab driver to bring him to the place where the shells were falling. He wouldn't stop looking for enemy fire until one shell was tearing apart the facade of a church at the Place de la Madelaine nearby. He later said: "I was an awful dope when I went to the last war. I can remember just thinking that we were the home team and the Austrians were the visiting team." But gruesome reality caught up with him. On his first day of duty, an ammunition factory exploded in the countryside near Milan. He had to pick up bodies and pieces of bodies, mostly of women working there. This first and extremely cruel encounter with human death left him shaken. The soldiers he met later didn't lighten this horror. Eric Dorman-Smith quoted Shakespeare's Henry IV Part Two: "By my troth, I care not; a man can die but once; we owe god a death . . . and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next." A 50-year-old soldier, to whom he said "You're troppo vecchio for this war, pop." replied "I can die as well as any man." Still, he wanted to come even closer to the action, and was wounded at midnight on the eighth of July while bicycling to a forward command post to deliver chocolate. The exact details remain mysterious but two things we know for sure: A trench mortar shell hit him leaving fragments in both legs, and he got the Silver Medal of Military Valor (medaglia d'argento) from the Italian government. He may have saved another soldier's life by carrying him on his back. Convalescing in the Ospedale Croce Rossa Americana, Via Alessandro Manzoni in Milan, he met Sister Hannah Agnes von Kurowsky, a nurse from Washington, DC. and one of eighteen nurses looking after just four patients. He fell for her, but they never were together. Soon after his departure, she fell in love with another man. Hemingway's metaphysical movement in this early period was a shift from juvenile life in Oak Park to the horrors of a full scale war. He waded deeper and deeper into violence until he stood face to face with death.

From Reality to Fiction A Farewell to Arms

Hemingway published A Farewell to Arms at a time when many other World War I books were published: (including Frederic Manning Her Privates We, Erich Maria Remarque All Quiet on the Western Front, Richard Aldington Death of a Hero, and Robert Grave Goodbye to All That.) By this time, Hemingway was no longer in love with Sister von Kurowsky and had divorced Hadley. He had fathered a boy named Patrick who was, like Henry's son in the novel, delivered by Cesarean section. The intense labor pains of his second wife, Pauline, inspired Catherine's labor in the novel. Ernest and Pauline were criss-crossing the USA by that time, as if Hemingway might be trying, like Frederic Henry, to escape his past. Finally, Hemingway's father committed suicide, shot himself in the head with an old Civil War pistol. Many of the novel's characters are based on real life persons, like Helen Ferguson, who reminds the reader of Kitty Cannell, who "warned Hadley, whom she considered to be a put-upon and long-suffering angel, that her husband was unreliable" many times as Ferguson did, and the priest, who represents Don Giuseppe Bianchi, the priest of the 69th and 70th regiments of the Brigata Ancona. A mystery in its own right is the character Rinaldi who had already appeared in In Our Time. One of the main themes of the novel is the unity of life and death, illustrated by a number of striking pictures like the soldiers carrying ammunition boxes, who "marched as though they were gone six months with child," Frederic's flight in a wagon full of guns and Catherine's death in childbirth. The book is not a war novel, but, as Anthony Burgess put it, "a complex statement about the nature of human commitment, presented against a background of war vividly caught." Death and the cruelty of war are ever-present, dwelling below the surface, rarely erupting into the sight of the protagonist.

As a criticism of war, again and again, Frederic Henry thinks and talks of Napoleon. By confronting the obsolete, romantic way of warmaking with the real thing, Hemingway showed the contrast between the official patriotic propaganda and the harsh reality. With Henry's famous monologue "I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice [...]," he sketches a wordly philosophy. Sacrifice equaled slaughter; the glory and honor they all came for was replaced by butchery. This is the disillusionment of the Lost Generation, and it led Frederic to stop thinking. Hemingway displays this in a number of other images. When Frederic is offered a sword in an armorer's shop, he says he went back to the front and thus had no need for it. Catherine describes her lover's death ("He didn't have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits." A Farewell to Arms is a male fantasy all the way through, a kind of ambulance driver's wet dream. Lieutenant Henry always seems to know what to do and say. Women are attracted. Men respect him. Italians treat him as an Italian. Nurse Barkley falls for him so much she thinks of little else. Cooks and valets knock themselves out for him. Counts want to play billiards with him. Always in grave danger, he always escapes. The entire novel is built on this shallow kind of fantasy. And yet... even wet dreams come on different artistic levels. If the plot is third-rate, the novel is beautifully observed in certain particulars and beautifully written.

The Time in Between

Having published A Farewell to Arms, the years of struggle were ending. Ernest Hemingway was now an author of worldwide renown, happy with Pauline and financially independent. But his good fortune in business, art and marriage was overshadowed by serious attacks on his health (anthrax infection, cut eyeball, glass-gash in his forehead, grippe, toothache, hemorrhoids; kidney trouble from fishing in Spain, torn groin muscle, finger gashed to the bone in an accident with a punching ball, laceration of arms, legs and face from a ride on a runaway horse through a deep Wyoming forest, later: car accident in Wyoming in which his arm was badly broken). Following the advice of John Dos Passos, he moved to Key West where he established his first American home. From the old stone house, a wedding present from Pauline's uncle, he fished in the Tortugas waters, went to Sloppy Joe's, Havana's famous bar, and traveled to Spain every once in a while, gathering material for Death in the Afternoon and Winner Take Nothing. A safari led him to Mombassa in fall 1932, Nairobi and Machakos in the Mua Hills. Many animals died on that safari. The Green Hills of Africa, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber were the literary results. His way of life provoked criticism by the Left. Max Eastman and others demanded greater commitment to the affairs of the people. A young left-winger begged him to give up his lonely, tight-lipped stoicism and write about truth and justice. For a while, it seemed he would do so. His article Who Murdered the Vets? for New Masses, a leftist newspaper, and his book To Have and Have Not showed a certain "social awareness." Soon, he would take political sides more explicitly.

Spain in Flames

Supporting the mostly Communist Loyalists further, he and John Dos Passos went to Spain, founded the Contemporary Historians, Inc. which produced another film called The Spanish Earth (directed by Joris Ivens). In addition to that, Hemingway became war correspondent for NANA, the North American Newspaper Alliance, thus he saw much of the fighting and could collect experiences for a new novel. While he was in Spain, his second marriage went to pieces. A liaison with Martha Gellhorn was revealed when a Rebel shell hit the hot-water boiler of the correspondents' hotel Florida. After The Spanish Earth was boxed and shipped, he left with the promise to propagandize for the Loyalists' cause. He spoke out in Shakespeare & Co. and addressed the Writers' Congress in New York on the fourth of June 1937. In his speech he stressed he was anti-fascist, not pro-Communist: "There is only one form of government [...] that cannot produce good writers, and that system is fascism. For fascism is a lie told by bullies. A writer who will not lie cannot live and work fascism." Due to his reputation, The Spanish Earth was even shown in the White House and his article Fascism is a Lie was published in New Masses. Furthermore, he established an ambulance fund and financed it by collecting money at Hollywood parties. He returned to see Franco control two thirds of Spain, the Loyalists still fought on. The Fifth Column was finished just before the taking of Teruel in January 1938. He wrote it, according to the preface, under constant bombardment in the Hotel Florida, it appears as though he had again needed the thrilling aura of death to inspire him. After short stays in Paris due to liver troubles and in Key West, he came back to Spain to see Loyalists retreating on all fronts, then returned to America to organize the experiences he gathered into a novel, the narrations of the different characters clearly originate here.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Some experiences from the time of World War One have been worked into For Whom the Bell Tolls. According to Anthony Burgess, the farewell at the station is the equivalent of Hemingway's departure to the Italian front. An interesting aspect is that Jordan went to school instead, maybe the war represents for Hemingway, as well as for his character Jordan, a part of his education. The last thoughts of Jordan could refer to Ernest's wounding in Fossalta where it seemed to him "more natural to die than to go on living." The gray-haired soldier who already appeared (From Boy to Man, above) might have been the prototype of Anselmo, while Golz's look is that of real life Polish General "Walter", commander of the XIVth International Brigade. To his other fiction, there are parallels, too. Maria's appearance and her behavior are almost identical to Catherine Barkley's. When Robert first embraces her, she erupts in tears, later she stated she didn't care much about herself but wished to do everything for him, and that she was his wife. Like Catherine, she is very preoccupied with death, and even excels her here. It seems as though Hemingway tried to summon the spirit of A Farewell to Arms once again, but Maria never was a character as complex as Catherine. In fact, she rarely said or did anything, and at the beginning of the last quarter of the novel Robert even remarked "I know thee very little from talking" (For Whom). She appears to be an imitation of Ms. Barkley, but only the facade is identical, in Maria's case, there is nothing behind, except for the story about her parents, but anyone could have told that. Pilar will be discussed in greater detail below (Pablo). The story is told by a third-person selective-omniscient narrator and contains far more inner monologue and remembrances of the various characters than A Farewell to Arms. This, on the one hand, is a necessity, since the book deals with just four days, and on the other hand supports the author's intention to illustrate the diversity and complexity of Spain. By using Medieval English he emphasizes the Antiquity and formality of the Spanish language and tries to lift the novel onto the level of Shakespearean dramas. In the last part of the novel, the plot is split into two parallel actions, the preparations for the attack and the course of Andrés. This is no unusual technique of storytelling, but with Hemingway, who sharply focused on his protagonist in A Farewell to Arms, it's a signal. Some say it's a signal of him giving in to the demands of Hollywood directors who wanted books that can be easily used as scripts, but I consider it a signal of him disassociating himself from the protagonist, maybe because of superstition (it brings bad luck to write about one's own end), but more likely because of his inner struggle that will be explained later (Pablo). At the time the novel was published, it seemed as though he separated the narrator from the protagonist to become what he had always wanted to be: A big, omniscient and ubiquitous daddy who tells all the stories and who's got everything under control. The reader often gets the impression that the characters are the narrator's children, especially when he evaluates them ("Anselmo was a very good man" (For Whom), "This was the greatest gift that he [Robert] had, the talent that fitted him for war" (For Whom). The main theme of the novel is, as already pointed out in its preface, intense comradeship in the prospect of death, the giving up of the own self for the sake of the cause, for the sake of the people. Robert Jordan, Anselmo and the others are ready do it "as all good men should", the often repeated gesture of embracing or patting on one another's shoulder reinforces the impression of close companionship. One of the best examples is Joaquín. After having been told about the execution of his family, the others are embracing him and comfort him by saying they were his family now. Besides this love for the comrades, there is the love for the Spanish soil, which is represented by the pine-needled forest floor. This love lasts till the very last breath, as the last picture proves. Robert Jordan awaited his death feeling "his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest" (For Whom). A less obvious, but, for the author personally, more important theme is suicide. Alarmingly enough, Hemingway already tried to justify it. Maria and Karkov are always equipped to do it, and Kashkin made Robert do it. The characters, including Robert, would prefer being dead to being captured, and that is Hemingway's first step onto a downward spiral. Hemingway frequently used images to produce the dense atmosphere of violence and death his books are renowned for, the main image of For Whom the Bell Tolls is the machine image. The fear of modern armament destroys, as it already did in A Farewell to Arms, the conceptions of the ancient art of war: combat, sportsmanlike competition and the aspect of hunting. Heroism becomes butchery, the most powerful picture employed here is the shooting of Maria's parents against the wall of a slaughterhouse. Glory exists in the official dispatches only, the theme "disillusionment" of A Farewell to Arms is adapted. Especially the fascist planes are dreaded, when they approach, all hope is lost, the efforts of the partizans seem to vanish, their commitment and their abilities become meaningless. "They move like mechanized doom"(For Whom), and they wreak havoc with El Sordo and his band, the ideological slogans Joaquín employs "as though they were talismans" (For Whom) have no effect, he resorts to praying, but not even that can save him. Every time the planes appear they indicate a certain and pointless death. The same holds true for the automatic weapons ("Never in my life have I seen such a thing, with the troops running from the train and the máquina speaking into them and the men falling" (For Whom) and the artillery, especially the trench mortars that already wounded Lt. Henry ("he knew that they would die as soon as a mortar came up"(For Whom). No longer would the best soldier win, but the one with the biggest gun. The soldiers using those weapons are simple brutes, they lack "all conception of dignity"(For Whom) as Fernando remarked, Anselmo insisted "We must teach them. We must take away their planes, their automatic weapons, their tanks, their artillery and teach them dignity" (For Whom). Apart from this physical threats, much of the violence is executed on a metaphysical level. The arguments between Robert and Pablo, especially the one where Robert tried to provoke Pablo far enough to have a reason to shoot him, is a great metaphysical battle that reminds one of Edward Albee's Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?, where the two main characters cause each other to crack up just by provoking. Pilar also is a very good example for metaphysical violence. She is one of the most brutal characters in the whole novel, and hurts almost everybody, but never actually uses physical force.

Frederic Henry

Author Milan Kundera once wrote his characters were not of woman born, but of an idea, of a decision he faced and didn't exploit the possibilities, circumvented a border instead of crossing it. Beyond the border, in fact, beyond the border of his own "I", started the realm in which his characters exist. They were familiar to him, but he could never reach them. I think the same holds true for Hemingway and his characters. Frederic Henry and Robert Jordan are perfect examples of "bordercrossers". Lt. Henry didn't want the medal of honor because he knew he didn't deserve it and deserted when realizing the true nature of war, Lt. Hemingway didn't take such drastic steps though he too had realized how pointless the war was. Robert Jordan took an active part in the Spanish Civil War and was willing to die for the country he loved, Ernest Hemingway was a non-combatant all the time.

a. Frederic Henry

1. Background

Mr. Hemingway doesn't provide his readers with much information about the family background and the past of Frederic Henry, one simply gets to know that he had quarrels with his relatives and therefore doesn't maintain contact any more. Three family members are briefly mentioned, his mother, sister and grandfather. When asked about his father he states he had none, just a step-father. Maybe Hemingway was still battered by his own father's suicide and therefore removed all information on Frederic's father. Henry came to Italy to study architecture in Rome and, speaking Italian, joined the army for no real reason ("I was a fool" (A Farewell), except for his eagerness for adventure ("In the old days I would have [...] picked a fight"(A Farewell). The sight drafts he receives from his grandfather are the only link to his home, he doesn't pay much attention to his grandfather's letters, the only one mentioned in the whole book is handled in two short lines among many others.


Henry tries to keep from thinking throughout the entire book, maybe he, too, fears getting "gloomy" (For Whom), he did not want to get emotionally involved in anything, neither in a love affair nor in the war. He was, in a way, convinced of the need for victory, but stated "It [the war] had nothing to do with me" (A Farewell). Talking about military maneuvers, he always referred to the Italian army as "them", thus stressing he doesn't see himself as part of the army as an ideological and patriotic institution. He doesn't report much about violence and death, if it happened, he mentioned it briefly, superficially, always refusing to have any feelings about it, always trying to get away from it. Even when he shot one of the Sergeants, he described it as if he was hunting ("I shot three times and dropped one"(A Farewell), trying not to realize he shot a sentient being. His attitude towards religion is a bit strange, though. On the one hand, he often said something around the lines "I had no religion" (A Farewell), but on the other hand he prayed not only for Catherine's life but also for his own ("Oh, God, I said, get me out of here." (A Farewell). As a matter of fact, Hemingway was a convert under fire and the line "It is in defeat we become Christian"(A Farewell) clearly refers to that. The later statements about having no religion can be explained best by Henry's own words "He [the priest] had always known what I did not know and what, when I learned it, was always able to forget."(A Farewell). Of course, this does not only refer to his religiosity, but also to his opinions about the war. To improve the process of forgetting that enables him to ignore all the violence, he drinks a great lot of alcohol throughout the whole novel ("I'm very brave when I've had a drink" (A Farewell).


The wall of emotional numbness Frederic Henry had set up before the novel started, crumbled when he first met Catherine, he felt he couldn't ignore all the sorrow and pain any longer, and began to separate from the rude society at the mess. This progress started when he proposed Catherine "Let's drop the war" (A Farewell) and was completed with the discovery "Then I realized it was over for me" (A Farewell), he "had made a separate peace"(A Farewell). His discovery had a multitude of reasons. First of all, as an ambulance driver, he had seen quite an amount of bloodshed when he carried off the wounded and dead. He could feel the inhumanity even more intense after his own wounding, when the man in the stretcher above him had a hemorrhage and the blood of the dying soldier slowly dripped on his shirt and nobody did anything about it. Prior to his wounding, he discussed with the ambulance drivers he was commanding. Since they agreed with their colleagues later in the novel, who "don't believe in the war anyway" (A Farewell), his sacrifice is rendered in vain, he almost died for nothing. It is worth noting that those eight ambulance drivers are the only soldiers to be described in the novel, therefore they act as representatives of the lower levels of the army hierarchy. Thus both Frederic Henry and the reader get the impression that the war is just wanted by the leaders, who don't care about human life (""How are all the wounded evacuated?" "They are not. [...]" "What will I take in the cars?" "Hospital equipment."" (A Farewell) and the ambitious, like Ettore ("He's the boy they're running the war for"(A Farewell). Furthermore, Frederic's talks with the priest in chapters 11 and 26 made him reach a certain state of awareness that left him more vulnerable to the cruelty surrounding him. He seemed to be most affected by the fate of Rinaldi. His prophecy "This war is killing me" makes him commit "self-destruction day by day". Together with all the other influences, his ongoing decline and its inevitable end reaffirmed Henry's decision to leave it all behind and made him condemn the war instead of supporting it by being an officer.

4.Catherine: A vehicle for the women in Hemingway's life

More than most of his other figures, Catherine Barkley is not a character by herself, but much more a vehicle for all kinds of experiences Hemingway made in his life so far. First of all, as she enters the novel, she clearly is the counterpart of the already mentioned Hannah Agnes von Kurowsky, later, when Helen Ferguson is with her and especially when Ferguson complained about Henry, Catherine can be viewed upon as an image of Hadley Richardson. In the end, the labor pains and the Cesarean section are a clear reference to Pauline Pfeiffer. But it is not all that easy. Catherine often says about herself that "There isn't any me any more." Only when she is "self-conscious," she is one of those women. When she is with Frederic, she adopts his ideas and vice versa. They form a unit that serves as an item of reflection for Hemingway's theories about life and death, which are always developed in the discussion of the lovers. She knows the poems he quotes and the books he is talking about, they have got so much in common that it's hard to tell them apart. The following dialogue may illustrate this: "They [the brave] die of course." "But only once." "I don't know. Who said that?" "The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one?" "Of course. Who said it?" "I don't know." "He was probably a coward," she said. "He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he's intelligent. He simply doesn't mention them." "I don't know. It's hard to see inside the head of the brave." "Yes. That's how they keep that way." Without any former explanation, they always know what the other one is talking about. They develop, without disagreeing or arguing, a philosophy that represents Hemingway's code of courage, called "grace under pressure".

Robert Jordon


Robert Jordan seems a little older than Frederic Henry, he already is an instructor and came to Spain first in 1925, so he is about 30, Henry is still studying. The links to his grandfather who fought in the American Civil War as did Ernest Hall and Anson Hemingway, the author's own grandfathers, are deeper, but they are just memories, as his grandfather is already dead. He asks him for help and advice and thinks he was "the hell of a good soldier" (For Whom) who, being a leader of irregular cavalry, must have been in similar situations. He admires him for having endured four years of Civil War. At the time of For Whom the Bell Tolls the author's mental wounds had healed enough to allow him to reflect upon his father's suicide. Of course, this reflection is executed by Robert Jordan, but the parallels simply can't be denied. Jordan's father shot himself with an old Civil War pistol, as did Clarence Edmonds Hemingway and Jordan's father did it to "avoid being tortured," a reference to Hemingway's father's incurable illnesses. Jordan understands it, but doesn't approve it. He refers to his father as "the other one" and considers him a "coward". Although he knows his father had become what he was because he was trapped between the famous grandfather whose deeds he could never surpass and his dominating wife, Robert still feels ashamed. He himself is not married, at least not by law or church, and has no brothers or sisters.


As Karkov put it, Robert Jordan is "a young American of slight political development but a great way with the Spaniards and a fine partizan record." He is no Communist or Marxist but "an anti-fascist", just like Hemingway. For the duration of the war, however, he is "under Communist discipline [...], because, in the conduct of the war, they were the only party whose program and whose discipline he could respect." He is embarrassed by phrases like "enemies of the people" and other communist clichés, dialectics and a "purely materialistic conception of society". He has the intention to write a book about Spain and the Spanish Civil War, Karkov, much admired and respected by Jordan, aids him because he thinks Jordan writes "absolutely truly", like Hemingway did, or at least claimed to do. He considers writing a way to get rid of all the experiences worrying him now. Interestingly enough, he thinks the book will be "Much better than the other", most likely referring to A Farewell to Arms. In spite of having written the book in a third person selective omniscient perspective, Hemingway wants to be identified with Robert Jordan. Robert Jordan is not as straight as Frederic Henry. Not only does he show a more differential way of thinking, but also he is inclined to talk to himself, especially in the second half of the novel. But you like the people of Navarra better than those of any other part of Spain. Yes. And you kill them. Yes. [...] Don't you know it's wrong to kill? Yes. But you do it? Yes. He even insults himself sometimes reminding the reader of the argument between Anselmo and Pablo at the start of the novel. "Art thou a brute? Yes. Art thou a beast? Yes, many times. Hast thou a brain? Nay. None." Naturally, his attitude towards violence is different from Henry's. He believes it is justified to kill people for the cause, though he does not enjoy it. He is convinced that a victory is the only acceptable solution to this conflict. Their different attitudes result from their different motivations: Henry is just on some kind of adventure holiday while Jordan defends the country he "would rather have been born in." Because of the gravity of the situation and the importance of his work, he can't permit himself emotions and feelings, he considers them as being luxuries, so he tries to restrain them, but is not always successful in the beginning, it takes him quite a while to extinguish them.


One of the central aspects of the novel is Robert Jordan's education. In the beginning, Robert Jordan's world is a very simple one, he has got a task and he has got to accomplish it, no matter how high the cost. He knows "it was wrong in the first place and such things accentuate disaster as a snowball rolls up wet snow", but "he did not give any importance to what happened to himself". When he gets to know the people of Pablo, he fears his orders could harm or even kill them. The responsibility for the ones he likes is hard to bear, and when he fell for Maria, he "would abandon a hero's or a martyr's end gladly". At first, he considers this development a corruption of his fighting spirit, but later asks himself: " [...] was it corruption or was it merely that you lost the naïveté that you started with?". Especially Pilar became his mentor ("All right, Inglés . Learn. That's the thing. Learn.", a trait she could have derived from Hemingway's mentor Gertrude Stein. He learns to value his own life and to enjoy it, even though it's overshadowed by his forthcoming death and when it's over, he hates to leave it all behind. Much of his education consisted of looking behind the scenes of the party propaganda. When he heard about the execution of the fascists in Pilar's home village, he is startled. To discover that the Loyalists can be brutal, too, is just the first part of the disclosure slowly emerging on his mind. The other part is the discovery that the dreaded fascist soldiers he is fighting and killing are simple peasants like the Republicans. On page 176, Robert thinks that all Spaniards are equal, just their leaders betray and abuse them, but every time he realizes this, he manages to suppress it, like Frederic Henry, because it would otherwise damage his resolution. Apart from the obvious effects of violence on his development, the prospect of an early death influences him greatly. The knowledge that he has got to live his entire life in just four days acts as a catalyst for his development and made it possible in the first place.


Robert may seem to be the perfect continuation of Frederic Henry, but For Whom the Bell Tolls is more than a mere A Farewell to Arms Part Two. Undoubtedly, the protagonist is the same, but there are those little differences that are already explained above, and apart from them, the major change is the introduction of two more main characters: Pablo and Pilar. With Hemingway, it's always useful to try and associate the fictional characters with the ones of his real life. Since the protagonist's identity is well known, it's sound to associate Jordan's beloved Maria with Hemingway's beloved Martha to whom the novel is dedicated. The phonetic similarities in their forenames support this association. Pilar could correspond to Pauline Pfeiffer, since "Pilar" was Pauline's secret codename when Ernest was still married with Hadley. Pablo is, in an informal way, the husband of Pilar and they knew each other for quite a while, like Pauline and Ernest did. They behave like a long-married couple, so maybe Pablo is the personification of an Ernest who hadn't made a clear break with Pauline. Maybe he identifies with Pablo, a useless drunkard most of the time, but when things are getting serious, he shows grace under pressure and acts according to the "No man is an Illand" theme right from the start ("my duty is to those who are with me". Robert Jordan does not value this theme right from the beginning, but seems, with his firm beliefs and his whole life still ahead of him, to be the best possible development Frederic could have had, while Pablo, with the alcoholic sentimentality of a man who knows his best years have already passed, represents the worst possibility. The reality, i.e. the author himself, struggles somewhere in between. On the one hand, he tries to stay away from Pablo, whose enthusiasm and resolution vanished a long time ago, who doesn't care much about politics and who definitely is unwilling to die for the cause, no matter how important it might seem. But on the other hand, he can't be like Robert Jordan, whose single-minded illusions about the strength of their enemies, about the possibility of a victory, about sacrifice, and about the justness of the cause appear very naïve. Pablo is what Ernest fears to become and Jordan is what he once was, so the conflict between them could represent Hemingway's struggle with his former self, which is displayed best by Frederic Henry. As observer of this conflict acts Pilar who likes Robert, because he is formed out of the author's early characteristics. She is concerned about the first signs of assimilation Robert already shows, she warns Maria: "You are going to have a drunkard like I have". What Hemingway tries is to get the best out of both characters, maybe to develop a guideline for his own life. They adopt each other's virtues and are able to drop some of their flaws. Robert gets, mostly via Pilar, some of Pablo's experience and is able to obtain a certain degree of wisdom, while Pablo is forced out of his "stagnation that is repugnant" and gets some reaffirmation of his spirit and resolution. In spite of that, the differences are still huge and although Robert considers Pablo a smart man he strictly disapproves his brutality and low cunning. Pablo improved a little at the very end of the novel, but Robert still is by far the most virtuous character. If seen under this aspect, the novel's end appears more tragic than it did before, because it is also the end of Hemingway's inner struggle with his Lost Generation ego, that gives in to the drunken cynicism of Pablo, in whom Hemingway implies, deliberately or not, visions of his own future and facts of his present. It is not only the fictional character Robert who dies, but also the part of Hemingway's mind that he represented. He stopped fighting his latent depressions, his alcoholism and his brutality and was slowly overwhelmed by them.

Young and Innocent

Hemingway's suicide was not that surprising after all. During all his life he was obsessed with death and, in a way, also with violence. Nevertheless, when his father committed suicide, he strongly condemned this deed as a violation both of what Harvey Breit called Hemingway's "categorical imperative" courage and his Catholic faith. Why, and when, did the change in mind take place? What were the reasons for his ever-growing inclination to killing and especially to killing himself?

Oak Park produced a tall, handsome man, strong, smart and ambitious. He had already learned the art of hunting and therefore was no stranger to killing. He also enjoyed a good fight, boxing was one of his passions. His father's prestige as a physician helped him a lot in the small town, he learned about music and art and grew up in a protected, clean and safe neighborhood. World War I showed him a different side of life, which did not, however, leave him entirely depressed and broken. His illusions were shattered, but the experiences gathered were invaluable, and, what's more, everything turned out to be all right in the end, the good ones won, his wounds healed completely and Agnes was a mere "Schwärmerei". He even got decorated, returned as a hero and earned much fame and admiration back home. His luck was completed when he married Hadley Richardson who bore his first son. Being a Artist in the "City of Light", as Paris still is called by some, he may have had a hard time from the financial point of view, but all in all the 'twenties were days of friendship, the financial and artistic struggle kept Hemingway fit.

Things Turn Sour

He divorced Hadley and married Pauline. Because of his Catholic faith, some conscientious conflicts arose, but were finally overcome. In the 100 days Hadley ordered him to stay away from Pauline, Men Without Women was created. Afterwards, he married for the second time, his conscience seemed to be cleaned maybe due to his writing, but the next hurt was already under way. His father committed suicide because he couldn't bear the burden of his incurable illnesses any longer. The cowardice in this action must have been a great shame for somebody who is as convinced of the "grace under pressure" doctrine as Ernest. Maybe the sensational suicide of Harry Crosby affected him, too, the founder of the Black Sun Press was a friend of his in Paris. His books sold very well and were approved by critics, but with Hemingway's success came his bad behavior. He told Scott Fitzgerald how to write his own novels, and Allen Tate that there was a fixed number of orgasms a man had. He also claimed Ford Madox Ford would be sexually impotent, maybe a hint to his own sexual neurosis. In return, he, too, was criticized and hurt. The journal Bookman attacked him as a dirty writer, McAlmon, the publisher of his first, non-commercial book said, according to Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway would be "a fag and a wife-beater" and that Pauline was lesbian. Even Gertrude Stein criticized him. In her book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, she claimed Hemingway had derived his style from her own and from Sherwood Anderson's, this shameful origin would be "yellow". Most insulting got Max Eastman, who asked Ernest to "come out from behind that false hair on the chest", and who wrote an essay entitled Bull in the Afternoon as a satire on Death in the Afternoon, a book Hemingway definitely would not joke about.

It is worth noting that this attacks on his pride and talent were accompanied by the already mentioned injuries which kept him almost constantly in bad shape.

The Endless Dark Nothingness

As we already know, Hemingway was very preoccupied with death, in his youth it was the death of small animals, later of big game or enemies in combat. Death was always present and always threatening, but was, as in the Tibetan yin yang symbol, inseparably linked to life, which Hemingway, like Jim Morrison, considered most intense in the prospect of death. He lived in the borderland, trying to get ever closer to the edge. On the other, on the yin side, waited what the Castilians call the "nada" or the endless dark nothingness. Hemingway stood on the yang side: "Life is too short for anything but the one thing that can outface death- human dignity". Fernando is the representative of this opinion in For Whom the Bell Tolls, dignity also appears in the form of gaiety as Robert Jordan mentioned in the first chapter ("It was like having immortality"), yet he fears and worships the nada greatly, as the stream-of-consciousness passage of Robert's sexual intercourse with Maria proves. For him it was a dark passage which led to nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere, heavy on the elbows in the earth to nowhere, dark, never any end to nowhere, hung on all the time always to unknowing nowhere, this time and again for always to nowhere, now not to be borne once again always and to nowhere, now beyond all bearing up, up, up and into nowhere, suddenly, scaldingly, holdingly all nowhere gone and time absolutely still and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them.

The prayer in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"(Short Stories), hinted at in A Farewell to Arms, where the still "numb" Frederic prefers nada, is very similar to this passage. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. For Hemingway the human existence was a struggle between light and darkness, between life and death, and the epitome of this struggle were bullfights, Spain's national sport. He became an aficionado after having seen the Pamplona fiesta 1925 which was fictionalized in The Sun Also Rises. But the book dealing exclusively with this topic was Death in the Afternoon where he discussed the metaphysics of bullfighting, the ritualized, almost religious procedures of the blood-soaked spectacle. Sadly enough, the country which stood for everything that mattered to Hemingway, his cosmic principles life and death, the struggle between them, and its manifestation in the form of bullfights, was destroyed by the Fascists. In spite of his efforts to support the Loyalists, Franco took over in the spring of 1939, like Mussolini, whom Hemingway called "the biggest bluff in Europe", did in Italy 1922. After having lost "his" country, he lost his Key West home as a consequence of his divorce in 1940. And at this point of time, the heaviest loss of all had already commenced. The generation he was a part of ceased to exist in the 'forties. Many were dying: Thomas Wolfe, Ford Madox Ford , F. Scott Fitzgerald (heart attack due to an alcoholic life as described in The Sun Also Rises), James Joyce, Sherwood Anderson, Virginia Woolf (suicide), Getrude Stein and some were leaning to the Fascists, like Ezra Pound. He became an Illand, the nothingness engulfed him.

Sure Shots: The Second World War

The United States entered World War II on December 7 1941 and for the first time in his life, Hemingway took an active part in a war. Aboard the Pilar, now a Q-Ship, he was ready to fight and sink Nazi submarines threatening the coasts of Cuba and the USA. It is worth noting that, according to Anthony Burgess, he never before shot nor would have shot another human being, and that he was a non-combatant in World War I, in the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) he was reporting on after having written For Whom the Bell Tolls and in the Spanish Civil War, where even the money he collected to support the Loyalists was used on non-belligerent purposes. Perhaps his failure in preventing the Fascists from taking Spain (he was very possessive about this country) had led him to take more drastic actions.

As the FBI took over the Caribbean counter-espionage, he was disbanded and went to Europe as war correspondent for Collier's. At Ville-dieu-les-Poêles he threw three grenades into a cellar where SS men were hiding, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention and his first murder. Seemingly encouraged by that, he declared he would be an unofficial intelligence unit. Later, he acted as an unofficial liaison officer at Rambouillet, and afterwards, he even formed his own partisan group which took part in the liberation of Paris. He tried to step further onto the path of the warrior the personages of his fiction, in this case particularly Pablo, had taken before him. By firing his machine pistol at the portrait of Mary Welsh's husband after having placed it atop of the toilet bowl in his room in the Ritz, he proved he wouldn't any longer flinch from killing a man who stood face to face with him. He became a killer like Pablo in the end.

The Downward Spiral

After the war, he started and abandoned a novel about the earth, the sea and the air, and went to Italy where he gathered material for Across the River and Into the Trees, a homage to Venice. He derived the title from the last words of General Stonewall Jackson, maybe he expected his own end soon. His now divorced third wife appeared as the third wife of the protagonist, Adriana Ivancich as his lover Renata, which means "Reborn" in Latin. Hemingway was longing for his lost youth. The novel was widely disapproved, the majority of reviewers accused him of bad taste, stylistic ineptitude and sentimentality, the last of which is most certainly true and fitted into the pattern that was beginning to emerge: Hemingway grew old. He started and, depressed by its mediocrity, abandoned a long sea novel to be published posthumously as Islands in the Stream. One section of it was published as The Old Man and the Sea, its enormous impact satisfied and fulfilled Hemingway, probably for the last time in his life. It earned him both the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954 and restored his international reputation as an author. Then, his legendary bad luck struck once again. On a safari he was the victim of two successive plane crashes, the injuries he got away with were grave and numerous, he sprained his right shoulder, arm and left leg, had a grave overall concussion, temporarily lost his vision in the left eye, his hearing in the left ear, had a paralysis of the sphincter, crushed his vertebra, suffered from a ruptured liver, spleen and kidney and was marked by first degree burns on his face, arms and leg. As if this would not be enough, he was badly injured one month later in a bushfire accident which left him with second degree burns on his legs, front torso, lips, left hand and right forearm. This physical hurts caused him to crack up, his strength was gone entirely and so was his will to live. He couldn't even travel to Stockholm personally. A glimpse of hope came with the discovery of some of his old manuscripts from 1928 in the Ritz cellars, which were transformed into A Moveable Feast . Although some of his energy seemed to be restored, severe drinking problems kept him down, his blood pressure and cholesterol count were perilously high, he suffered from an aorta inflammation, and maybe the depressions accompanying alcoholism had already started. He also lost his Finca Vigía in San Francisco de Paula and was forced to "exile" to Ketchum, Idaho after the situation in Cuba had started to escalate. The very last years, 1960 and 1961, were marked by severe paranoia, he feared FBI agents could be after him if Cuba turned to the Russians, that the "Feds" would be checking his bank account and that they wanted to arrest him for gross immorality and carrying alcohol, he got upset about perfectly normal photographs in his Dangerous Summer article etc. He received treatment for his mental disorders, there were suicide attempts in Spring 1961. He received treatment again, but it could not prevent his suicide on the second of July, 1961. He put the gun to his head and fired.

Violence and Redemption

In his novels, Ernest Hemingway used violence extensively, but yet subtly. Never is there a description of death for its own sake, it always contributes to a larger theme, in A Farewell to Arms it is mainly human commitment, and in For whom the Bell Tolls mainly comradeship. It contributes in an unusual way: Death and violence always act as the opposite, as the imminent threat and as the jet black background that makes the theme stand out sharply, and that's why it is difficult to analyze it. No matter what exactly happens in those two books, violence and death are always involved, but just act as a sort of sublime intensification of the protagonist's feelings and experiences.

Why It Went Wrong

Sadly, Hemingway couldn't use this attitude in life. Maybe the pressure simply was too high. The general public never knew the real Ernest Hemingway, a man with a man's problems. They only had an abstract ideal they knew from his books. Even his close friend James Joyce mixed him up with his characters. Joyce once said: He's a good writer, Hemingway. He writes as he is. He's a big, powerful peasant, as strong as a buffalo. A sportsman. And ready to live the life he writes about. He would never have it if his body had not allowed him to live it. But giants of his sort are truly modest; there is much more behind Hemingway's form than people know." According to Ford Madox Ford, truth is not facts but vision. On that principle are Hemingway's characters based. But that is what caused Hemingway's failure. He felt he had to be as stoic as his characters. Like Robert Jordan's father, he was trapped. On the one hand, he could never surpass his character's deeds and on the other hand, the general public demanded him to do so. He tried and created one myth after the other. He claimed he had an affair with Mata Hari ("but one night I fucked her very well, although I found her to be very heavy throughout the hips and to have more desire for what was done to her than what she was giving to the man"), that he joined the Arditi after his wounding, etc. And most people were perfectly willing to believe it, the tale about the Arditi, Italian shock troops, even appeared in Malcolm Cowley's preface to the 1944 edition of The Viking Portable Library. He was captured in the structure of his lies, the discrepancy between him and the image he had set up grew larger every day. To be a liar and worthless in comparison to that shining idol must have reinforced his alcohol-related depressions and made him more liable to the hurts he received. After all, there is a certain ambivalence of death and violence. It had done some good, and taught him priceless philosophies. But at the same time, they hurt him so much, the only thing he could do was to make fiction from them. He did that superbly well.

Bibliography [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Ernest Hemingway.]

Books from Alibris: Hemingway


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